eCommerce success in the consumer goods category doesn’t happen overnight — it’s a journey

Defining a set of marketing guidelines that drive a measurable increase in sales is an incredible feat, never mind doing so for 2.5 billion smartphone users across the globe.

Yet that’s exactly what our client, and consumer goods giant, Unilever is tackling with the challenge of developing a consistent and cohesive set of mobile ready hero image guidelines for all brands, in all countries to follow with all retailers. When co-presenting with us at the OmniShopper International Conference, Oli Bradley, Unilever’s global e-commerce experience design director, shared details on his eCommerce journey. Here’s what we learned:

As desktop declines in eCommerce, better conversion on mobile becomes a strategic imperative

Mobile consumers shop differently and, as a result, experience unique challenges.

When I first joined eCommerce team, I spent my first summer eye tracking and talking to shoppers and I learned it wasn’t that easy. They were frequently adding the wrong sizes in basket and were frustrated when the “wrong” products arrived at their door,” said Bradley, the man behind Unilever’s mobile-first strategy. ‘It was clear from eye tracking that smartphone shoppers scroll fast, don’t read the product title and were struggling to see the detail.”

Bradley recognized that if the online shopper’s first digital touchpoint was their smartphone, these small mobile screens represented a big omnichannel challenge for Unilever and retailers alike: How can we deliver the same great user experience online, which our consumers have come to expect from us offline?

Helping Unilever’s products to look as good online as they do on the shelf

Unilever partnered with Cambridge University to create what he’s called “mobile ready hero images” to address the unique challenges of shopping on a small screen. Unilever conducted further eye tracking and qualitative research to test these concepts and turned to SKIM for the insights needed to standardize the mobile-hero image guidelines.

mobile ready hero image design principles

‘We realized we could never do this journey alone,’ said Bradley. “Along with retailer feedback, we needed to test in a quantitative way what we’d been learning in a qualitative way. SKIM came from a recommendation through the CMI (consumer and market insights) team as the best partner to help. We’ve always had a fantastic relationship with SKIM and knew we could trust them to bring rigor to this eCommerce project.’

Equipped with SKIM’s research insights and recommendations, Unilever’s eCommerce team was able to establish content guidelines for its brand marketing colleagues. These mobile ready hero image standards optimized the most important brand, format, variant and size selection criteria for a mobile screen. And more importantly, retailers around the world are signing up to this approach too – today more than 83 retailers in over 40 countries are live with Unilever’s approach.

The business impact? Retailers conducting A/B tests online have seen 24% lift on Magnum, and even simple number of washes hero images in Laundry delivered 3% lifts.

Download the webinar to hear directly from Unilever’s e-Commerce Design  Director, Oliver Bradley  <> . 

By publishing mobile ready hero image guidelines across their marketing organization, Unilever was able to improve the online shopper experience (consumers can instantly recognize the most important selection criteria like pack size) and promote a consistent brand identity in eCommerce – two important ingredients for omnichannel success. Operationally, this made the creative and design process significantly more efficient. 

What can other brands and retailers learn from Unilever’s eCommerce efforts?

Bradley recommends: “Simply ask your brand managers to walk the smartphone store with you.”

Don’t review new product images on a laptop screen,’ said Bradley, when we asked him what advice he would offer to other eCommerce teams embarking on this mission. ‘It doesn’t provide a true representation of how the images will be perceived. Rather simply ask your brand managers to walk the smartphone store with you, see if they can work out the 4 basics of brand, format, variant and size from just the 16mm image on a smartphone- and if they can’t go back to drawing board. Brand teams need to be courageous when it comes to a mobile-first design strategy. Make the four basics – brand, format, variant and size – a lot bigger because size is the most common mistake we see online,” he said. “Be prepared to declutter and zoom.”

Invest in understanding the way your customers shop

If you’re interested in optimizing your mobile strategy, you’re always welcome to get in touch. We’d love to talk to you about your brand.

If you’re not there just yet, or you want to learn more, why not download our whitepaper? It’s detailed, free, and it shows you just how to map today’s CPG customer journey to drive omnichannel success in 2018.

Are you still relying on outdated, pre-omnichannel customer journey assumptions?