Talking digital brands and UX-processes with Per Almhorn from IVEO
An interview with Per Almhorn from the digital agency IVEO, talking about the agency's journey into the world of e-commerce and future projections on the digital landscape. Read on to find out more about IVEO’s view on creating the strongest brand designs and user experiences.
So nice that you could join us for this interview, Per! First – can you tell us a little bit about your background and how Iveo was born?
Before starting IVEO about 11 years ago, me and my co‑founder developed mobile applications, which we sold on Appstore during the upswing of that era. This was the time before apps were even called apps. But then apps became a thing, and the app‑development space became overpopulated. So we decided to start an agency instead. That’s when IVEO was born. We got into e‑commerce fairly quickly, around 2012, as it was the most exciting segment to work in. Since then we’ve focused on building all kinds of digital solutions within e‑commerce, which makes us very strong in this segment today. Today, we work from scratch with our customers, and by doing so we get to use our full capacity. My role in the company has taken many shapes throughout the years. I have done everything from design, to building server parks, and dabbled some with development. Today I work mostly with e‑commerce architecture and project management.
What would you say is the most important thing when it comes to designing a new site?
I believe that the most important thing is to address the clients' specific problems and solve them in the most efficient way possible to make sure they have the best user experience. Everyone has, or let's say, many people think that they have very unique problem descriptions. There is always something unique about what we do, but according to the 80/20 principle, 80% can be solved in a somewhat standardized way. It’s in the remaining 20% we can do something unique to help the client stand out and sell more.
Why is it important for a (digital) brand to invest in a custom‑designed flagship store and UX experience?
If we’re talking about brands, the user experience is what will give you a competitive edge. It’s what you compete with. It’s very rare that a brand competes with price in their own channels. Generally, that’s nothing you want or dare to do. You want to compete with the best customer experience – both in terms of design and UX, but also with the backend processes. Make sure you have deliveries that are kickass and a best‑in‑class user experience. You should think of your e‑commerce experience as a flagship store. For example: nowadays, you can buy Nespresso coffee at local supermarkets. But that experience will never be as good as when you buy Nespresso in their own flagship store. Historically, the brand has always been expressed through the physical store – and that's how you should think of your digital flagship store as well. Your flagship store is your window against competitors.
Tell us more about your process ‑ what are the steps for creating a powerful brand experience?
We have a fairly well‑established process in three steps: a conceptualization phase, a design phase and, a user experience phase. First, we start off by analyzing the needs of our client as well as their customers. In this phase, we find out how our client wants to express information about their brand and how they want to present the products. After that, we have a strong team executing that analysis together with our client. If the client has information available, such as a target group analysis or surveys, we’ll use that. If they haven’t done that research, we usually do it together in the workshop phase.
After that, we make wireframes – which are undesigned sketches and prototypes of what the site and experience might look like. By doing this, it’s easy to quickly iterate and test together with the client so you know that it works. Then we add colors and shapes. We usually call this phase "painting the wireframes" – you can imagine a blank car without color, logo or shape. This is what we add to build the final experience.
Then follows the technical development phase where we make sure to deliver ongoing tests before we go live. After going live, we’ve also developed a packaged solution for further development and management of the solution, and we make sure to validate the hypotheses and target group analysis made in the beginning to ensure that what we did live up to the sales and brand building goals we set. This often varies greatly from customer to customer based on their individual goals.
Do you have an example of a website you are particularly proud of?
We are super happy with our common customer Great Earth. Great Earth sells vitamins and supplements, so among other things we’ve built a custom feature that allows their customers to take a test that helps them find out which supplements they should buy based on their specific needs. Knowing which vitamins to buy can be tricky, and this feature guides the customers to completing a tailored purchase. The feature is based on research that Great Earth has done together with health professionals. So there’s solid research behind it, which makes it very legit, but it also meant that we had to iterate the project a lot to get the right results. Super fun and challenging!
How do you think brand design can help increase traffic to a website?
It's a bit like I said before – the website is the brand's flagship store. The website builds the brand. And therefore it must be the destination where the customers get the best experience. Design will never generate traffic – traffic is something you earn or buy. Leading traffic to the site is based on if you are being seen elsewhere. However, one should not underestimate the word of mouth. If you have a good experience, customers will recommend you. If you get a better shopping experience on the site, this is where you will shop. People pay for a good user experience. That's how it is. A flagship store is more expensive than Amazon, but we believe and see that people still go there for the experience.
Finally, do you have any future projections of e‑commerce and brand design?
On one side, there is a lot to say about technology. But loyalty is also becoming more and more important, especially within the Direct‑to‑Consumer segment. We’ve seen the Direct‑to‑Consumer space grow rapidly in the past five years and it will continue to grow for at least another five more years for sure. I think building loyalty, and applying technology that promotes loyalty will continuously become a more and more important factor for brands to consider in the years to come.
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