Open access peer-reviewed chapter

Reimagining m-Commerce App Design: The Development of Seductive Marketing through UX

Written By

Christopher Parker

Submitted: 16 February 2018 Reviewed: 20 February 2018 Published: 25 July 2018

DOI: 10.5772/intechopen.75749

From the Edited Volume


Edited by Sonyel Oflazo?lu

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To increase the market share of m-Commerce in the retail sector, new user interaction paradigms must be sought to break out of the current saturation of ideas. While the global fashion industry is worth over $2.7 Trillion, less than 15% of sales derive from online transactions. Growth in the m-Commerce platform is slow and unlikely to recapture the monumental shift of the early Web 2.0 era without further innovation. Such change needs to address the overwhelming approach by m-Commerce apps to sell to customers through presenting a stream of products rather than develop an experiential marketing platform. This chapter re-imagines the customer experience of m-Commerce fashion apps to encapsulate seductive and powerful marketing experiences. These experiences are alongside the media traditionally used to make sales within apps. We present a conceptual app framework, grounded in contemporary research in marketing and UX design, inspiring designers and marketers alike in their future developments.


  • m-Commerce
  • design
  • UX

1. Introduction

We can only see the future as far as our societal limits allow, but once an idea has entered the world it is impossible to imagine the future without it [1, 2]. Electronic Commerce (e-Commerce) is one such concept. Initially it was treated with scepticism [3, 4] yet has grown to be a powerful juggernaut of retail. In 2018 for example Mobile Commerce (m-Commerce) accounting for 14.7% of all UK retail sales [5]. This concept of e-Commerce could not have been envisioned in the mid-1990s [6], in line with Clarke’s concept ones limited ability to imagine the future. Therefore design’s evolution and the way we create consumer technology interactions in retail is a constantly evolving concept. While we cannot know the future, considering different opportunities of interaction design (design paradigms) allows us to consider what the future may be. Currently 85.3% of all UK sales come from physical retail stores [7] at a time where m-Commerce design is considered to be mature [810]. This relatively low market share highlights that the approach to app design and consumer engagement is needed to increase the revenue m-Commerce platforms. This chapter therefore addresses this need to reimagine m-Commerce app design.

After the release of the iPhone in 2007, m-Commerce apps have focused on translating the ‘tiled view’ of products as developed for websites into the smaller smartphone screen; see Figure 1. It should surprise any designer that despite exponential advances in smartphone technology (including native augmented reality capabilities [11]), there have been limited advances in m-Commerce UX design since the iPhone’s launch [12]. This is exemplified in how retailers seek incremental additions of app features over revolutionary rethinking of the underlying retail concept [8].

Figure 1.

Translation of e-commerce website to m-Commerce app designs.

Besides the holistic limited variation in m-Commerce app design, consideration needs to be given to how retail markets are divided. One of the clearest examples of market segmentation is found in fashion retail; global worth over $2.7 Trillion [13]. However not all fashion retailers are equal in their market sector, which Jackson and Shaw [14] describing four sector levels:

  1. Economy (e.g. Primark, Walmart)

  2. High Street

    1. Mass Market (e.g. H&M, New Look)

    2. Mid-Level (e.g. Top Shop, M&S)

    3. High End (e.g. All Saints, Coast)

  3. Diffusion (e.g. Marc by Marc Jacobs, Vivian Westwood Red Label)

  4. Luxury (e.g. Channel, Marc Jacobs, Vivian Westwood)

Traditionally only luxury brands had the resources to create seductive experiences in their physical stores [14]. However times have changed. Fast fashion brands Zara and H&M now claim the third and sixth positions as the world’s most profitable fashion brands [15]. These multi-billion dollar companies eclipse the capabilities of almost all luxury brands in their resources to create exceptional m-Commerce offerings. Therefore, we should consider all design and interaction opportunities as equally available to all retailers. The future offers a democratisation of the m-Commerce experience. But just because you can do something, it doesn’t mean you should. Therefore, it is important for designers and marketers to understand how consumers can be engaged for maximum impact. It is important that current retail channels are preserved, but at the same time it is clear that the notion of what an app can be needs to be expanded further.

The objective of this chapter is to explore new design paradigms of m-Commerce to foster new conversations in the UX Design community. In order achieve this, the following aims need to be addressed:

  1. We need to uncover the key dimensions of consumer interaction with m-Commerce apps in order to build a UX Design Paradigm Framework that describes different sectors of user interaction.

  2. We need to explore how current m-Commerce apps relate the sectors of the UX Design Paradigm Framework in order to reveal under-exploited areas of consumer interaction

  3. We need to explore concept designs for under-exploited sectors of the UX Design Paradigm Framework in order to present new ways to connect with consumers for marketing and sales purposes.


2. The dimensions of consumer interaction

To uncover the key dimensions of consumer interaction with m-Commerce apps, this section reviews the contemporary literature concerning m-Commerce and retail engagement motivations.

2.1. Brand communication vs. sales focus

With the internet nothing is new, only online and interactive [16]. As Parker and Doyle [17] point out, high street retail brands cannot operate in the same experiential sphere in physical stores as luxury brands can. While a luxury brand can present a highly hedonic experience within a flagship store due to high profit margins and relatively low footfall, a fast fashion or high street fashion brand cannot reproduce this; even if desired. This is because of a fast fashion business model based on high turnover of low profit margins. While the virtual space of m-Commerce removes all of these limitations, consumer expectations still exist. For example, luxury fashion brands by their definition must only be accessible by a small group of affluent customers. Through this the vast majority of consumers are actively excluded. If a fast fashion brand (e.g. H&M [14, 15]) produces an app that mirrors the ‘superior’ interaction of a luxury brand (e.g. Gucci), then Gucci must respond by creating a more ‘luxurious and superior’ experience. Ultimately the luxury brands are maintaining their exulted position of perceived excellence and aspiration.

Research in marketing is converging on the concept that apps need to focus on different levels of interaction relative to the brand presentation. Research at the University of Manchester [17] has proven that two overarching focuses exist; brand communication and sales focus. This connects with the key steps of Kuo et al.’s [18] 10 steps of purchasing; information seeking before product acquisition. e-Commerce can therefore be seen as a negative motivator for luxury fashion purchases [17]. As such, luxury brands may use social media and m-Commerce apps’ native ability to diffuse information rather than purely sell through the m-Commerce platform. This is in line with Rogers [19] who showed that interpersonal communication is the most powerful conduit of innovation diffusion. Consequently these studies demonstrate that a duality exists in app design:

  1. The creation of apps to communicate the brand marketing messages

  2. The creation of apps with an explicit focus on m-Commerce sales

Irrespective of the focus a designer or marketer takes with an app, it is essential that the experience of the consumer is positive [20]. This presents the possibility of a third dimension to be added to a UX Design Paradigm Framework (positive/negative experience). However the complexities of such a three dimensional model exceed the scope of this chapter. Therefore for analysis, the following definitions are adopted by this chapter:

  • Brand communication – An app whose primary focus is mixed media communication that enhances the consumer’s perception of the brand.

  • Sales focus – An app whose primary focus is the sale of items from within the application.

2.2. Interactivity and seduction vs. passive presentation

The field of user centred design is considered as starting with the seminal work of Norman [21], primarily focused on function over form.1 In their insightful work, Parker and Wang [9] prove that in m-Commerce, utilitarian functions are of a higher importance to users than hedonic experience. This is in contrast to earlier studies that have suggested that hedonic experiences are critical to physical retail channels [22, 23]. Furthermore, credence is given to hedonism’s importance in retail channels. For example, earlier research [2527] shows that enjoying an interaction increases one’s perception of the product’s utility. However it would be naïve to consider that a single way exists to best design an app for a fashion brand. Instead there is no single right or wrong with these two dimensions. To quote the seminal work of Lao Tzu [27] ‘The sage has no fixed ideas about anything, so he takes in a broad range of information’. We must therefore embrace uncertainty and be open to all possibilities in our design.

It is important to note that consumers are not a single homogeneous group, but instead comprise multiple sub-groups. For example, Parker and Wenyu [7] prove that demographics of age and gender are less important in profiling consumers than their behaviours and purchase motivators. Therefore, the question cannot be which form of app is best (interaction or information presentation), but instead, which is the best form of interaction for the brand and target consumer. In his excellent book, Anderson [28] argues that the emotional experience is as important as interaction’s function.

These studies present a duality that must exist, one of utilitarian function and presentation, and one of seductive hedonism. This chapter does not hold one form of engagement as necessarily higher than the other. This is because all human experience exists on a scale where even negative aspects can (under the right circumstances) be useful [29, 30]. For analysis, the following definitions are adopted by this chapter:

  • Seductive interaction - An app that utilise hedonically engaging or interactive media to achieve its primary purpose.

  • Passive presentation – An app that utilises static media to achieve its primary purpose.

Giving consideration to the two dimensions of brand communication/sales, and seduction/information presentation, a series of four paradigms are clear from their intersection; as visualised within the UX Design Paradigm Framework of Figure 2. From this we must explore the spectrum of current m-Commerce apps.

Figure 2.

The UX design paradigm framework elements.


3. Analysis of current m-Commerce apps

To explore how current m-Commerce apps relate the sectors of the UX Design Paradigm Framework, this section analyses the most prevalent m-Commerce apps on the iOS App store. To provide an insight into the current state of fashion m-Commerce apps and their design ethos, Apple’s iOS 11 platform [31] was selected. This is due to its consistent performance as the most profitable m-Commerce platform, being responsible for a 63% share of all m-Commerce revenue [32]. For apps, it is essential to focus on a cross section of brands to uncover the variety of approaches to app design and consumer engagement. Therefore apps were chosen to represent:

  1. The most popular retail apps on the Apple App Store (December 2017)

  2. The most commonly recognised fashion retail brands according to a survey of 15,000 individuals [33]

  3. The most profitable luxury fashion retailers [34].

The apps which met these criteria are displayed within Table 1. It is also important to note that the 22 apps selected bisect each market level from fast fashion to luxury.

Category App names
Most popular iPhone Shopping Apps (December 2017) 1. Amazon 6. Shpock
2. Wish 7. Gumtree
3. eBay 8. JD Sports
4. Groupon 9. ASOS
5. Joom 10. Depop
Most popular fashion brands [33] 11. Nike 14. Under Armour
12. ADIDAS 15. H&M
13. American Eagle 16. Gap
Global power of luxury goods by sales [34] 17. Louis Vuitton 20. Gucci
18. Cartier 21. Omega
19. Estee Lauder 22. Chow Tai Fook

Table 1.

Selected iPhone apps for this exploratory study (filtered for iPhone app store presence).

Apps were downloaded onto an iPhone X (iOS11 [31]) in December 2017. All apps were extensively used, explored, and tested to uncover features both prominent and discoverable. Thematic analysis of screen shots was conducted with the aid of NVivo 11 [35] to systematically record the brand communication, sales focus, seductive interaction, and passive presentation elements. This was done in line with the guidelines set in Table 2. To facilitate open academic discourse, the data freely2 available for use via Mendeley Data [36].

Framework element Category Reference
Brand communication Application of mixed media that supports brand engagement and loyalty over the purchase of specific products. [17]
Sales focus Application of mixed media that supports the consumer in finding a specific product or items to meet their needs. [18]
Seductive interaction Multisensory engagement of the senses to elicit emotional experiences for the user. [28]
Passive presentation Non-interactive presentation of images and text to achieve the aims of the app. [37, 38]

Table 2.

Categories of the UX design paradigm framework.

After thematic analysis, cluster analysis (Jaccard Coefficient) was applied to identify how the apps group together based on coding similarity. Once achieved, the visual output of the cluster was applied to the Dimensions of Consumer Interaction (see Section 2), as visualised within Figure 2.

As Figure 2 shows, most the apps within this study focus on direct sales rather than brand communication. In short, the app is a replacement for the physical store rather than being a form of advert. At first this may seem obvious. After all, why would a retail company looking to increase profits not seek to sell their products on the interactive device in everyone’s pocket? However, in 2016 UK high street retailer Marks & Spencer spent £19 million on advertising alone [39]. Bear in mind that an app costs around £50,000 to create and the scope of the advertising budget is clear. What’s more, apps are already encroaching on this territory. Even a cursory study of Facebook (the world’s most popular social network and mobile app) reveals a platform dedicated to delivering seductive advertising. Furthermore, while fashion magazines are seen by many to be a source of entertainment, almost all of the content are adverts for products, or articles focused on native advertising. To conclude, society is already paying to engage with advertisements, although they may not consider their engagement as such.

I am sure upon reading the above paragraph that an obvious question arises; why should fashion retailers change their approach to apps when globally fashion m-Commerce experiences increasingly healthy profits of $225 billion [13]? The answer returns to the words of Arthur C. Clarke [1] that we can only see the future as far as our societal limits allow. So exploring such potential new paradigms, such conditions of both seductive and passive forms of brand communication in apps needs to be explored further. It is the hope of this chapter that in doing so, new concepts of app design and consumer engagement may be drawn in the minds of designers.


4. New concepts in m-Commerce app design

In order to explore concept designs for under-exploited sectors of the UX Design Paradigm Framework, design briefs for both seductive and passive brand communication apps are presented alongside an exploration of how the concepts may be designed.

In creating retail apps, there are seven principles that direct the designer through a well-planned brief [40].

  1. Objectives and goals – What is product trying to achieve?

  2. Budget and schedule – How much will it cost and when must it be delivered?

  3. Target audience – Who is the primary user of the product, and to what degree are other user groups important to its design?

  4. Scope of the project – The explicit criteria the product must meet to be successful.

  5. Materials – What do the designers have to work with?

  6. Overall look and style – How should the product appear to the user?

  7. Any do not’s – What should be avoided at all costs?

All seven steps of the Design brief are essential in any commercial venture (particularly #2 – Budget and Schedule). But in exploring new paradigms, our focus can afford to be more limited than when developing in the real world. Therefore the concept designs within this chapter focus on objectives and goals, scope, materials, and look and style. Other elements may be considered brand associated or universal to a degree that while influential, shall be left to the reader to imagine further creative opportunities.

4.1. Seductive brand communication

4.1.1. The design brief

The objectives and goals of a seductive brand communication app should be to nothing short of deep visceral immersion that plays like entertainment. Through this the app instils positive brand association into the subconscious of the user to promote purchase behaviours. In short, the seductively brand communication app is to be an advert the consumer wants to engages with. This concept may sound a little alien to some. After all, why would anyone choose to be part of an advert when so much of technology has been to rid our lives of adverts? However you do not have to search hard to find examples of voluntary advert engagement. Amsterdam’s Heineken Experience (a tour of the old Heineken beer brewery. Here, cues of tourists line up to walk through what is part museum to the history of the brand, part entertainment, and full brand communication. Guides brandishing free promotional souvenirs show off with pride the historic medals the beer won for excellence of taste. They show the purity of ingredients and direct guests into fully immersive 360° simulations of the brewing process. All of this is before entering the exhilarating football history recreation and possibly the trendiest bar in all of Amsterdam; accompanied throughout with brand appropriate house music. In a nutshell, every visitor is paying to be advertised through every medium. Through this, Heineken are ensuring future purchases of their beer, and all for the modest price of €18 to the tourist. If the brand communication experience is seductive enough, they will cue round the corner and still pay for it.

In his exceptional Ted Talk, Lee [41] discusses how anything we interact with must be considered an experience. Naturally our engagement cannot be a single experience, and so the designer must turn to the five senses: touch, taste, smell, sight, and sound. It is not enough to excel in one category. After all, a sports car that looks incredible won’t sell well if the engine sounds like nails in a grinder. When designing for the five senses, the strength of a combined approach is worth more than the sum of its parts. This is all very well for the industrial designer, but how can this possibly translate to the 2D world of a smartphone app? For that, we need to consider the materials we have at our disposal.

With any virtual product, the materials (or in this case technology) available to the designer are of upmost importance. Since introducing iOS11 [31], augmented reality is a feature natively available for designers to use and exploit in their creations. Coupled with an ever increasing sophistication of connected home items the designer need not be limited to the technology in the phone. With smart TVs, Speakers, Virtual Assistance, Security Systems, and cross device play compatibilities (etc.) they can instead play with interaction of the human in their entire environment. Consider the smartphone less as a single gateway, but more as a controller or portal to launch a full range of sensual experiences in the users’ environment. To the seductive communicator, one must imagine a household filled with smart enabled devices.

Finally, let’s turn to the look and style of the app. Here there can be no absolutes presented since any two brands in the same market sector (let’s say Pepsi and Coca-Cola) will have unique branding materials. So how can we approach the style of a seductive app when everything from typography to colour is intrinsically linked to the particular brand? The answer is ‘truth’. It is essential that everything the user interacts with is true to the core brand message. Let’s stay inside the realm of Fashion retail and consider the example of the luxury brand Gucci. Vogue [42] describes the brand as ‘retro made modern … jewel-coloured ruffled ready-to-wear garments… girly, geeky, gloriously decorated… deliciously colourful’. This is one we are invited to imagine belonging to a ‘bespectacled beret-wearing girl staying over at her boyfriend’s place, taking a little overnight bag and not bothering to unpack the night before, and so the morning after, things are a little crinkled, a little imperfect’. Collide this with the necessities of luxury fashion – high quality, exclusivity, and trend leading amongst others [17] – and images form in the mind. I would name this ‘the emotions connected with the highest quality second hand charity shop New York’. You get the picture. Any experience we create must above all else be true to these emotions we imagine while reading the description above. For example, an app that delivers a virtual reality fashion show set in London’s Brick Lane, shot on a 1970s TEAC HC-100 as the sun goes down (accompanied by the sound of Captain Beefheart’s Trout Mask Replica3) would communicate the brand very well. However, a slick catwalk in a pure white, cold, and stark expanse (set to the sound of Chelsea Wolfe’s Hiss Spun) would be in complete contrast to the brand. Thus this scenario would not communicate the brand’s emotions and visions effectively. Therefore, the designer must always put the core emotional imagery and story of the brand before any experience, no matter how seductive.

4.1.2. The concept: beyond the smart home environment

So what should a seductive brand communication app? The answer is multiplicity. The crux here is that seductive interaction cannot be a universal concept. While one person may find exultant bliss of Mozart’s operatic symphony, a similar person may feel a comparable (if altered) experience in the throes of a Cannibal Corpse’s death metal concert. As the excellent journalistic observer Malcolm Gladwell [43] testified, there are no perfect products that will be revered by all. Instead, there can only be a suit of items catering to the range of personal preferences which people emotionally feel, yet cannot completely describe. By establishing multiple experiences, the chance of the consumer connecting at a deep level with at least one is increased.

The designer therefore has to choose between creating a single, complex app delivering a cornucopia of experiences, or a suit of apps each one tuned to a single purpose. While there are merits to both options, I hold that when several highly engaging experiences are combined into one platform compromises must be made. Therefore, to keep the experience as unfettered as possible, a suit of immersive and seductive experiences is the most suitable for fulfilling the brief. Therefore, consider how a seductively involving app might function in practice.

Fashion retail focuses on delivering in-store atmospherics that communicate the brand’s impression [44]. The first concept is brand-appropriate atmospherics in the home. From thermostats to blinds, lighting, doors, music, and personal assistants, smart technology is becoming ever more pervasive within our home environments. Google Home, Amazon Alexa, and Apple Siri (for example) seeks to connect all of our appliances and environment features together in one ecosystem. However, when all appliances are connected by one of three ubiquitous virtual assistants, uniqueness and exclusivity (key concepts for fashion retail) are lost [45]. Let us then imagine an app by Chanel installed onto the smart home hub (e.g. Apple TV) that controls your environment.

When interacting with your Chanel Smart Home, every room has a microphone and speaker. This allows you to ask the Chanel Virtual Assistant (let us call her Coco) anything at any time. Not only is Coco equipped with the latest in machine learning to mimic human personality, the tone of voice (and the assistant’s accent) is set to mimic the tone of voice appropriate for the Chanel brand. Whenever a question is asked, Coco needs to make assumptions to fit the moment. For example, asking Coco to play relaxing music is to balance the user’s learnt preference with the style appropriate with the Chanel brand. Taking this further, the lighting in the room can be set to automatically fit the time of day and mood of the music, delivering the perfect ambience. This lighting and background music can know who is home and their schedule. This allows the user to enter the home and step into a predetermined ambience through smart lighting, connected sound systems, and automated temperature. In short, the elegance and sophistication with which the house is managed allows the user to not just wear the Chanel clothing, but to live within the Chanel world. By focusing on the smart home, the user interaction is not through screens or keys, but through ubiquitous voice at all times. Given the right level of sophisticated interaction design, the user is constantly interacting, constantly engaging, and at every turn being seduced by the brand.

But what about experiencing the stories and ethos of what is ultimately a very visual industry. An augmented reality app may allow the user to watch the latest runway show from the comfort of their own home. Here, the user is adopting their smart device as a portal to this virtual world. Connected to Coco, the lighting level, colour, and intensity can be set automatically to match that of the show. All of this is while the room’s surround sound speakers perfectly deliver the high quality sound missing from conventional video media in 2018. Navigation through such a device can be through both traditional touch and through Coco. You want to buy the dress shown and matching accessories? Then just ask Coco and the garments appear on the Smart TV on the wall. Home atmospherics, smartphone, and television are no longer single points of contact but a connected arrangement in the symphony of brand delivery. However such examples may be limited. While the user would be engaging in the home at all times, shopping with the brand (no matter how entertaining and game-like) can only be an occasional interaction. Therefore we need to expand the concept further.

Gone are the days of watching live TV in favour of online streaming of films and media on demand. Chanel could release a curated media app for the smart TV platform. In this app each movie, TV show, or documentary is chosen for its complimentary qualities to the core brand story. For example, in 2017 Burberry produced a short film titled ‘The Tale of Thomas Burberry’ [46], a romanticized and stylised version of the brands founder and his passion for style. Not only would a curated media platform allow for seductive media to be delivered to the home without effort, but each film selected builds upon these emotions and images. With such a media outlet, every evening of entertainment can be suitably sophisticated, intelligent, and stylised to reflect the values and aesthetics of the Chanel brand. Also, linking with Coco means the user would never have to guess which lighting setting or sound EQ is the most appropriate. This is because Coco would know the setting for each room and film, and set it accordingly. While Google or Amazon may match these features, their universal and playful attitude would be at clear odds to the more sophisticated and elegant approach that Coco can deliver.

This concept is in every way feasible with the technology of 2018, and is thus limited regarding its full potential. I therefore encourage every reader to imagine how this story can be evolved and pushed further with new technology that cannot at present be envisioned.

4.2. Passive brand communication

4.2.1. The design brief

Compared to the highly evocative world of seductive brand communication, you can be forgiven for assuming that passive communication can only be a poor cousin. However the continued prevalence of books in a world where Hollywood has delivered stimulating visuals for over 100 years holds credence to the idea that passive presentation is not dead. To consider passive brand communication in apps is therefore to uncover and celebrate its unique strengths to a commercial advantage. So what is the objective in building such apps? When pure sales are the goal, the answer is simple. This is to start a direct and explicit connection between the customer and the brand ideas with no interactivity getting in the way. But when the brand communication is itself experiential and intangible, you may be forgiven for asking if removing the seductive element doesn’t remove the communication. My answer to this is ‘not so’. The philosophy (and theology) of Taoism has at the core of its philosophy meditation on the notion of stillness. This is exemplified by the quote ‘Maintain a perfect stillness, and you will witness everything arising from this quietude’ ([27]; Chapter 16). In passive brand communication, while a seductive experience may be one of excitement and hedonism, a passive mediation offers a more tranquil interaction with the subject. Engaging a consumer in such a calm way may lead to a deeper connection with the brand than possible through seduction. Therefore the objective must be a calm, serene, and not overly distracting communication of the brand principles; imagine reading a book in a snow filled landscape instead of the extreme passion of a rock show.

To match this passive objective, the scope of the app must therefore be able to unobtrusively communicate the key brand message. While a seductive app may require a significant chunk of time to engage with a passive app should be easy to engage with for short periods of time. In 2018 the most popular apps on the app store (and the most popular social networks) are Twitter and Facebook. These both offer bite sized interactions. Imagine the user opening the app, reading a 280 character message, laughing at a cat video, and then closing the app. The fact that these interactions are so short makes them effective, and the positive content makes them enjoyable. In summary, the apps are quick fixes of serotonin to the brain, easily engaged with throughout the day. Passively presenting information is the most effective way to create such interactions, communicating the brand in a satisfying way not possible through a bill board advert. However, the key must be enjoyment, if only for short periods of time.

The materials a designer has are similar to that of the seductive communicator. But unlike the highly engaging apps mentioned previously, limitations have to be put in place. First, the designer should only use the technology within the smartphone’s native OS with none of the proprietary packages used by more exciting apps. Second, despite the average smartphone boasting enough processing power to run an augmented reality first person war game, the designer must ignore it. Instead, only the basic functions of information display native to both Android and iPhone since the early 2010s should be used. Ultimately it is up to the individual designer to choose where they draw the line on this restrictive issue. I suggest a very limited pallet of tools and technologies for the designer’s utilisation for a single reason: simplicity. By removing all but the essential libraries of a programming language the designer is forced to consider the simplest way to achieve their objective. This creates a quieter, and purer communication of core brand values when compared to the decadence of seduction. So how can these materials be interpreted? Holistically through audio, simple page transitions, short (280 characters) snippets of written text, stories, and short videos. The balance must be found between enjoyable experiences and causal engagement here, which shall require great skill and restraint by the designer.

If the materials of the passive brand communication app are to be limited and tranquil, how does this relate to the look and feel of the app? While high street brands in 2018 have a focus on simplicity (notably Zara Home and The White Company), other fashion brands such as Gucci, Abercrombie & Finch, and ADIDAS seem to define complexity and exhilaration in their image. However to see a conflict here is to misinterpret simplicity. As Turner Prize winning artist Grayson Perry [47] said ‘some people think that subtle is dull, they get muddled up. I think you can be subtle with bright colours’. In your mind visualise any action blockbuster you have ever seen. Visualise the flashing lights, explosions, and shrapnel screaming through the air. Now pause that scene into a single crisp freeze frame. In that frozen moment all the exhilaration is still present, still engaging, and still communicating all the dynamics of the scene. However the viewer is no longer glued to watching it, and they can choose to engage, to reflect, or to move on with greater freedom. So the visual identity of the brand need not be compromised, only the methods they used to communicate the said identify should be suitable for a short attention span.

4.2.2. The concept

After exploring the suit of seductive apps, all working together in harmony to create an immersive environment, it is easy to consider the same should apply to passive apps too. After all, one of the most powerful technologies of the last decade has been the Kindle eBook reader. The Kindle casts off the high performance of iPads and the like to present one thing: books. Simplicity is a pathway to uninterrupted engagement. As the remarkable designer John Maeda put it [30], we must:

  1. Reduce the content until it cannot be reduced further

  2. Organise the system to make it appear limited

  3. Reduce the time needs to engage

  4. Add the opportunity for the user to learn

  5. Allow for complexity to appear in order to contrast the simplicity

  6. Provide everything in context

  7. Increase emotional response

  8. Gain the users trust

  9. Subtract the obvious while adding meaningful artefacts

Through these nine rules, the simplest way of presenting a brand is after all through one app that focuses on one single form of brand communication. For some brands this may mean delivering one app, and for others a suit of apps. However caution should be provided to only produce as many apps as is necessary to communicate the brand even if that number is just one. While many other options present themselves for app concepts, I present below one which embraces these principles while fulfilling the design brief.

As Maeda [30] explains, people experience deeper levels of interaction when they are actively learning. While education in the traditional sense (i.e. Skills) may be inappropriate for a fashion brand4, style as an evolving concept presents one possibility. Therefore, a High Street fashion brand, such as All Saints an app, has a single focus: instructing customers on the ‘rules of style’. This app should be more than a simple catalogue or lookbook, focusing instead on lessons how style works would be more appropriate. Add in makeup tutorials and the app becomes a pocket reference guide, all the time communicating the essence and style of the brand. A sports brand such as ADIDAS could take a similar lead on delivering a sports trainer, or gym personal trainer, although this is an obvious step. A more interesting option could be a cooking guide to use in the kitchen, allowing novices to produce highly nutritious meals to support training. Sidestep the obvious, focusing on one core concept of learning a brand appropriate skill, and bringing this to the forefront. This shall allow regular interaction with the brand’s core values in short and meaningful interactions. Furthermore, the ways in which these skills are communicated must be the simplest way possible. Consider putting the user into a relaxed state rather than engaging excitement. This doesn’t mean exciting and stimulating imagery can’t be used, but an app does not need fast videos and high quality graphics when a single photograph can suffice.


5. Conclusion

This chapter set out to explore new paradigms of m-Commerce to foster new conversations in the UX Design community. In addressing the objective, this chapter achieves the following contributions.

  1. The key dimensions of consumer interaction with m-Commerce apps are shown to be based on seductive interaction/passive presentation, and brand communication/sales focus.

  2. Current m-Commerce apps in relation to the sectors of the UX Design Paradigm Framework are shown to focus almost exclusively on passive sales focus. This means brand communication is an under represented yet important potential for app design.

  3. Concept designs for under-exploited sectors of the UX Design Paradigm Framework presented new forms of seductive and passive brand presentation to enhance the market position of fashion retailers.

The main contribution of this chapter is establishing that brand communication is a viable and important target for app designers seeking to market fashion retail brands to a wider audience. Moreover, a new approach to app design and consumer engagement is provided in Section 4 to direct designers and marketers in their activities. Designers should pay particular attention to the design briefs to direct their actions.

Ultimately, I hope they can consider new ways to produce a competitive advantage through differentiation and selecting the most appropriate design paradigm for their brands need. This is in contrast to more standard perspectives of following the crowd, designing apps to mirror existing high performing m-Commerce apps. An alternative is innovating or stopping to consider more suitable interaction alternatives. The limitations of this chapter are that the concept m-Commerce interfaces of Section 4 are conceptual and therefore have not been tested. As such, they represent the initial ideation phase of the Design Thinking process. Future research should produce low-fi and hi-fi prototypes of the concept apps to understand how consumers react to the new paradigms of app design.


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  • A position Norman [24] did however concede on in later years to extend his position to include experience and beauty as a necessary function.
  • CC BY 4.0
  • I recommend every reader immediately visits YouTube to experience these artists in full.
  • The exception to this could be an outdoor clothing brand (for example) teaching customers about outdoor crafts, etc.

Written By

Christopher Parker

Submitted: 16 February 2018 Reviewed: 20 February 2018 Published: 25 July 2018