Fashion retail experience for a mobile-first, Instagram-friendly, post-Supreme world

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You know things are bad when the word “armageddon” can be thrown around without anyone really questioning it. 

The retail sector is going through its toughest period in history, XXXXX

One can point the finger at any number of factors here, from mismanagement to slow reactivity to a race to the bottom. But the brutal truth is that — post-web, post-social, post-Amazon — consumer shopping behaviours have changed irrevocably. This is not to say that people have fallen out of love with retail (far from it). But the customer journey is now radically different from that of even 10 years ago, and the physical store is just one (increasingly small) part of it. 

Modern brands need to deliver a connected, consistent and carefully choreographed experience across multiple touchpoints, both online and off-, in order to cut through. And now, more than ever, the value and meaning of a retail business is defined not just by its brand image but the service it provides; and how these two sides of the same coin interface with one another to define how it really feels to be your customer. 

This is especially true in the business of fashion, where purchases are tied so intimately to the customer’s sense of their own identity, and how they want to present themselves to the world. Fashion is more than just fabric; it’s about how it feels to be you. 

So when Italian fashion brand Patrizia Pepe approached Wednesday London to redesign its website, the task was much bigger than “just a website.” My team and I looked at the brand’s customer experience and visual identity across the end-to-end journey, and asked ourselves: how do you create a fashion retail experience that cuts through, connects and converts in a mobile-first, Instagram-friendly, post-Supreme world?

 

Context

Our first step was to conduct stakeholder interviews, with everyone from the business’ original founders to the new management team, merchandising to logistics management. 

We discovered a business at a crossroads. Having established for itself a strong, cult following and deep cultural currency in the nineties and noughties, it had lost its way in recent years. And it was struggling with three critical, and connected, issues: 

  • a loyal, but ageing, customer base

  • a compromised creative vision, and quality control issues, influenced by the fallout from the 2008 financial crisis

  • decreasing customer loyalty, and more polygamous purchase behaviours, in the fashion category as a whole

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However, with a new management team in place, and a renewed sense of energy in the original founders and creative director, they had a clear vision for the future and specific business goals to drive them forward:

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In order to deliver on these objectives, the business was looking to restructure its marketing approach and product release strategy around specific capsule collections and new product drops. This new approach would give the business to give a clear, cross-channel focus to the end-to-end customer journey, and imbue the path-to-purchase with a sense of must-have-it (and must-buy-it-now) urgency for Millennial and Gen Z fashionistas. 

The challenge was how to do all of this within the narrative framework of a seasonal collection; combining the excitement and cultural currency of fast fashion with the direction and design vision of an affordable luxury brand. 

Approach

We started by mapping out the customer journey in both space and time: conducting research to understand the array and interplay of different consumer touchpoints, and the different roles and drivers at each stage of the conversion funnel. 

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Then we conducted a category audit to understand which service propositions would drive competitive advantage and deliver a best-in-class customer experience. 

We defined a clear path-to-purchase and site structure that would optimise the customer’s journey through the brand’s new marketing framework and product release strategy. 

And ultimately, we developed a clear concept and creative vision that would deliver against all of the above, across multiple touchpoints — and act as a North Star for the entire business moving forward. 

Concept

Throughout the stakeholder interview process, it became clear that one of the brand’s strongest assets was its brandmark, the fly. It was distinctive not just visually but conceptually, speaking to a brand — and critically, a consumer behaviour — that was constantly moving, unmissable, but impossible to catch.

The fly metaphor also informed our design principles more strategically, in terms of brand behaviour and how we wanted the overall experience of shopping with Patrizia Pepe to actually feel.

We called this concept “The Phy/gital Fly” as a nod to the omnichannel ambitions of the business, and it would act as a springboard for every design decision we made moving forward, from one end of the customer journey to the other.

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The charm, elegance but essential spikiness (both literally and figuratively) informed our choice of typography and the development of our iconography: 

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Response

Designing for online/offline attention

We wanted to create an experience that made the brand instantly recognisable, and keep her moving through it. And we knew social was a primary discovery channel for the customer. Moreover, we needed to ensure that the journey was as impactful and seamless IRL as it was online (and vice versa). So we developed a clean but distinctive visual identity across all the relevant touchpoints; and choreographed all these elements in such a way as to guide the customer directly to the latest capsule collection or product drop, both online and in-store. 

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E-commerce for the Instagram generation

The vast majority of fashion e-tail experiences are built on off-the-shelf e-commerce platforms - and so was ours. These off-the-shelf solutions are just a starting point, and it’s always surprising to me how many brands just stop there. We wanted to go beyond the RefApp and extend the client-side build, with carefully crafted micro-interactions and design patterns that would speak to an audience weened on Instagram (not Amazon circa 1998). 

 
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Scarcity breeds value (and membership has its privileges)

To complement that sense of cultural currency, we wanted to give the brand the ability to bake anticipation, excitement and urgency into the customer experience. And to reward its loyalest customers with privileged access to its collections and product drops. 

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Omni-channel thinking for an omni-channel customer

The modern fashionista is no less loyal than her historical counterparts, but she’s deeply polygamous in ways that are quite new. There’s less snobbery around price point, and she’s as likely to be seen in Zara as she is in Burberry (and very possibly both at the same time). And that means everybody wants a piece of her. If she thinks your brand has cultural currency, you’d better hold on tightly; because there’s always going to be someone else promising something new (and possibly better) around the corner. 

We made sure that we took her time and attention seriously, and made every moment count, whether it was an impulse buy or a longer, more considered purchase. And we made sure that the payment, pick-up and delivery options never gave her a reason to drop out.  

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Designing for the moment of truth

No matter how well designed the experience is, nothing should be more exciting than receiving the clothes themselves. We ensured that the unboxing moment was as carefully and exquisitely crafted as everything else — not to mention the transactional emails that support it (typically the bit of the experience where the design team switches onto autopilot). And, of course, because we don’t want this to be the first, last and only purchase she makes, we made sure she was clear about the benefits of joining the CRM programme too. 

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Born in Florence, but with its arms around the world

Ultimately, we created more than just a website. We developed a strategy and design system that delivers coherent and consistent customer experience across multiple touchpoints and channels, all around the world. So whether you’re shopping in-store in Milan, on their website from Berlin, on social in Amsterdam or Tmall in Beijing… the experience is always familiar, and distinctively Patrizia Pepe. 

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Credits

Experience Director 
Ben Lunt

Creative Director 
Mooks Hanifah

Senior UX Designer
Moises Nevett

Art Director
Quentin Villeret

UX Designer
Mike Caballero

Visual Designers
Aoife Barron, Meiji Ip

Agency
Wednesday London

Technical partner
OpenMind

 

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