Asda George & Isobar: 10 Years on, still going strong
A lot can happen in ten years. Today you can hail a ride with the push of a button, stay in a stranger’s home on the other side of the world and order something you probably don’t need, to be delivered to your front door in under an hour. Not to mention that even a celebrity can be elected to president of the free world.
But all of this arguably wouldn’t be possible without the launch of the iPhone a little over ten years ago, giving consumers access to more computing power in their pocket than ever before.
Ten years ago, Isobar began working with Asda George, supporting the development of its fashion business and George.com. To mark the occasion, we chatted to John Nother, Senior Director for Asda Digital Technologies, who believes that the evolution of the smartphone over the last 10 years has completely changed consumer behaviour when it comes to interacting with retailers.
“As smartphones continue to be part of all aspects of daily life, the role they play connecting customers to the shopping journey remains key,” explains Nother.
Using technology to improve customer experience
The need to personalise the shopper experience is at the forefront for Asda George, and no doubt many other retailers who are trying to keep abreast of the constant changes technology is having on consumer behaviour.
One-way Asda George stands out from the crowd was the launch a progressive web app (PWA) for its George.com mobile website, which resulted in winning an Ampersand award in 2017 for the #1 UK retailer site for mobile speed and ease.
Speed and ease is the main reason Asda George and Isobar took on the task of creating a PWA. The technology underpinning the new George.com mobile site gives customers the very best mobile experience, providing the functionalities of an app within a mobile web browser. By caching content on a customer’s smartphone, a PWA can deliver a much faster mobile experience, without asking customers to consider parting with their precious storage space.
“Innovation is a key priority for George.com as we constantly strive to improve the shopping experience for our customers. We have been on an exciting mobile-first journey, with a focus on speed and ease along with simplifying the customer shopping experience,” explains Nother.
“It’s been a fantastic achievement by the teams driving this but the journey doesn’t stop there. We are now onto our next phase of innovation, continuing to work with Isobar on how we further enhance customer experience.”
‘Tin’ years together
It’s unusual for a supplier-retailer relationship to work together on a long-term goal, rather than jumping from one short, sharp project to the next Isobar and Asda’s partnership is about looking towards the bigger picture and focusing on the customer, while taking an agile approach to delivering technology.
But it hasn’t always been like that. Like any relationship, there was a moment where both parties had to take a long-hard look in the mirror and decide how they could work together in the long-term.
“In the early years the relationship was a typical supplier-customer relationship, with a transactional engagement approach around focused on delivery dates, defects rates and contract SLAs,” describes Nother. “But over the last six years this approach has been turned on its head moving to an agile and product management approach. It has been hugely successful for us as a team, but it took some effort to get there.”
Nother says he didn’t realise the importance of the changes the two businesses were making at the time: “But our way of working now allows us to deliver key functionality at pace, but it has changed the dynamic of the team. We no longer have the typical customer-supplier relationship – we have a ‘one team’ ethic that stretches between customer and supplier and across geographical locations.”
Looking to the future
The partnership continues to work on products it hopes will satisfy consumer demand going forward. But that is easier said than done considering the pace of technology change right now, never mind in a year, or another ten years from now.
Nother says emerging technologies including voice, visual search, augmented reality and virtual reality are all front of mind as he considers the different ways consumers will interact with George.com.
“It’s predicted that by 2020, half of all web searches will be done on voice, and visual search will also be key,” he says. “But it’s about making the engagement natural so it feels part of day to day behaviour, and understanding how customers want to use that technology will also be important."
“Customers don’t think about channels when they want to engage with you, so we need to understand their need and make sure we can fulfil it.”
First published on The Drum.