What am I searching for?: Savvy on-site search from SearchBroker

Ecommerce Expo Manchester was in town last month at the Manchester Central Convention Centre and whilst in the midst of desperately trying to keep my head above water whilst tackling a website relaunch at work, I popped by to sit in on the SearchBroker seminar on Customer Engagement and Findability. Quite the intreguing title, don’t you think?

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Basically, Search Broker are a bunch of people that are interested in search. No, not Googlers, these guys play closer to home and concentrate on the navigational matrices built within our websites. Y’know, the search bars on fashion sites where we type what we’re looking for. Caught up, right, now for something more challenging…

Angel Maldonado, the Spanish CEO of Colbenson (license owners of SearchBroker) and excellent public speaker to boot, introduced himself and his now international company looks at search. They look at people.

“When a customer comes into a store,” said Maldonado, “they ask you for something, you don’t do this.” Angel then walked away from his invisible and hypothetical consumer and mimed taking something off of a shelf and returned to the original spot, all in silence.

It’s about putting the personal into ecommerce, making our websites behave more and more like human beings, responding to the emotions and requests of consumers in nuanced ways.

But, how do we make our websites do that?

Angel wasn’t about to give away too many secrets, he wouldn’t have Mango, the Spanish General Council of Judicary and Zara as paid up clients if that was how he did business. Mind you, he did give some really interesting pointers.

Colbenson client, Zara, are undergoing a major overhall of their on-stire search mechanism, and Search Broker is the reason. An international roll-out, across the brand’s 18 global territories, is currently underway with the Spanish site being the first to adopt the new technique. Watch closely…

Here’s the Zara website as you no doubt know and love it…

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Here is the left-hand side navigational menu, with the search box at the bottom.

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Now, when we click into the search box, to begin typing our search term, something strange happens. Instead of doing nothing to indicate that the site knows we’re about to ask it a question, the search box (with our cursor still within it, helpfully) flys upwards toward the Zara logo, causing all the other distracting navigational options to disappear.

Nifty.

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Now, when we begin to type that search term within the search box, our old friend “auto fill” pops up with suggestions, becoming more and more refined as we complete our search term. 

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Simple, yes, but effective? Oh my yes. With 22% of all online fashion consumers making up 69% of the spend*, these savvy shoppers expect wonders from their multichannel browsing and we need to be prepared to provide what they want, when they want it, with a big digital smile on our website’s faces.

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*Digital Diva Report

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Oliver Sweeney Care & Repair The Ultimate Guide

Whilst on a press tour of The Avenue in Manchester, a stretch of luxury retail in Spinningfields, I was pleased to revisit Oliver Sweeney, cobblers to the mighty.

The store is small but perfectly formed with shoes adorning all the walls available and even a sprinkling of apparel and accessories.

After being thoroughly briefed on best-sellers and things by the retail staff, the press tour moved on, but I was given a little take-away from the team at Sweeney in my goody bag, which took the form of a leaflet. Usually the first thing to be thrown away when rampaging through a goody bag, but, this time, actually one of the best bits!

So, you know what I did? I decided to give my brogues a polish.

I realise that I’ve blogged about Sweeney’s care tips before but we all need a refresher once in a while and these tips apparently come from this guy:

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Tim Cooper, Cobbler-in-chief at Oliver Sweeney

First, I gave my brogues a little wipe down. Then, I got my polish, and the handy applicator that I got in my last goody bag!
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Then I rub-a-dub-dubbed.

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Then I buffed and revealed a gorgeously shiny pair of brogues.

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Brogues, Burton (Can’t afford Sweeney dear reader)

Oh, and then repeated with all my other leather shoes….

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Find below snaps from The Ultimate Guide to Care & Repair direct from Sweeney’s Cobbler-in-Chief and the Oliver Sweeney shoe care range!

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 photo 10bd660c-63c9-435c-a20c-296a4e20b4c5_zps4e6bc7f2.jpg photo oliveersweeney2_zps8b1abdfd.jpeg photo oliveersweeney21_zps8561e3de.jpeg

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Ted Baker Pashion SS13 Look-book doodle.

Popped along the The Avenue in Manchester’s Spinningfields t’other day for a SS13 update on all the the fashiony things going on at the city’s luxury retail stretch. We chatted Ochre menswear at Armani, melted ice cream palettes at Mulberry, soft soles at Oliver Sweeney, heritage at Brooks Brothers, Justin Timberlake’s Tom Ford suit at Flannels and more of the usual at All Saints.

I also picked up the latest Ted Baker look book and found this little doodle that I thought was quite nice, shame I’ve just sold my Ted Baker pocket square on eBay really…

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Dublin: Guinness, Whiskey and Pie

“O’ to be sure, we had a grand time. It’s a very pretty city,” is the only thing I can say in a convincing Irish accent. BUT I CAN SAY IT IN AN IRISH ACCENT NONETHELESS. 

We did have a grand time, the city is indeed very pretty and since every American seems to think they are actually Irish, I wouldn’t mind being Irish either!

We spent four days soaking up the alcohol, pie and sights of Dublin, visited the Guinness Storehouse, the Old Jameson Whiskey Distillery, Kilmainham Jail, the Brazen Head (the oldest pub in Dublin) for story telling, the Post Office on O’Connel Street where the 1916 Easter Rising took place, The National Museum of Natural History and a lot of bars (seriously, a lot).

Here’s my jaunt in snaps.


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In flight magazine…
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Pint #1
 
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  photo IMG_0488_zps78a53297.jpg Blurry night-out snap
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  photo IMG_0507-1_zpsd58874e5.jpg photo IMG_0508-2_zps1a30e816.jpg photo IMG_0475_zpse58bfd0d.jpg photo IMG_0513_zpsbdb3e922.jpg 
Kilmainham Jail
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Grace Plunkett’s cell at Kilmainham Jail

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Mother didn’t approve of the open-top tourist bus.

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Nor did she like the large glasses…
 END.

London Collections: Men: The (Belated) Verdict: A Series of Colons

One question I have been asking myself, since the concept was announced, why is it called London Collections: Men? Why isn’t it just London Men’s Fashion Week? WHY, I ASK!

One thing you might be asking is, why am I so late blogging about it? Well, dear reader, I live in the Republic of Manchester and LC:M, as the name so blaitently expresses, is a Londoner’s gig and I’ve been a little out-of-touch despite the rather incredible effort from the BFC to boost the newbie event’s presense via Social. Also, I’ve been totes busy detoxing from Christmas, so there.

My thoughts after two season? Good on ya Dylan Jones for giving menswear and kick up the arse and all without making it a big scary fashiony circus. Even those fence face masks were rugged, masculine and got even the most boyish of non-fashiony man talking. Woop!

Thought I’d do the true Blogger thing and pull together my mood-board of must-haves for reference to in later outfits post etc. Et Voila.

 photo AlexanderMcQueenAW13_zps1e551f39.jpg photo AlexanderMcQueenAW132_zps3fc8e95b.jpg   photo JWAndersonAw13_zps7a713499.jpg photo JWAndersonAW131_zps7072ad5f.jpg   photo JamesLongAw13_zps21f7924b.jpg photo JamesLongAW131_zps563daf58.jpg    photo JonathanSaunders_zps0e0fe5b3.jpg photo JonathanSaundersAW13_zpscda8ddfa.jpg    photo JWAnderson_zps924db1a0.jpg photo MAN_zpsc9cbacc9.jpg photo MrStart_zps15d63d6c.jpg photo MrStartAW131_zps5a37262f.jpg photo MrStartsAW13_zps9be44b04.jpg   photo NicoleFarhiAW13_zps64968ead.jpg photo RichardNicollAW13_zps3cc53a3b.jpg photo RichardNicollAW131_zpse50e177f.jpg
 photo TOPMAN_zpsda8fd6e3.jpg  photo ChristopherKanes_zpsb0cbba23.jpg

Alexander McQueen, Alexander McQueen, J W Anderson, J W Anderson, James Long, James Long, Jonathan Saunders, Jonathan Saunders, J W Anderson, MAN, Mr Start, Mr Start, Mr Start, Nicole Farhi, Richard Nicoll, Richard Nicoll, TOPMAN Design, Christopher Kane.

I think I’m going to go as far as I can with channelling my inner James Long without loosing my wish to be a minimalistic Prince a la Richard Nicoll, for AW13. I’m going to continue to focus on plain and simple pieces that evoke quality and longevity, whilst tapping into this broad shouldered, narrow waisted silhouette. Hey, I may even don a garden fence and a strapless boob-tube too. 

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Best Practice: Hissy fits and SEO

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Anywho, my work colleagues seemed uninterested and slightly pissed that I had disrupted their discussion of the Zara SALE, and I did inevitably hear/read the phrase, not once, but several more times that week and every day since and so here we are, passive aggressive town. 

But wait, I’m not going to get all bloggy on your bad self. I’m not going to post vague political cartoon illustrations in an attempt to make my piece all Newsnightesque and Broadsheet witty. No, its a Sunday evening and I’ve got scented candles burning. I’ve had time to reflect, relax and re-type. 
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OK, just one.

Before we get stuck in, the phrase best practiceis one many will have heard and said for varying different reasons both in professional and perhaps even personal situations: “Dear, pop the milk in the refrigerator door, it’s best practice… Oh, I always make my own pastry, it’s best practice.” 

However, the context of the phrase I refer to here is the context in which best practice is used to describe mechanisms, systems and protocol within the e-commerce industry. This, in turn, spans two paradigms, A) how Google wants the internet to look, or rather, how SEO professionals think Google wants the internet to look, and B) What techies think will make clicking ‘add to basket’ easier and more likely (perhaps without even having to click!). 

Now, I’m not a radical, I understand money makes the web go round and I understand Google owns the internet, my beef isn’t with all that top level stuff, it’s with the fact that creativity might be stunted and suppressed in favour of SEO/e-com best practice, resulting in a mediocre web-scape that just looks like a cheap version of Amazon.

Don’t get me wrong. I adore Amazon. Just like I adore my local ASDA WalMart Supercentre and Tesco Extra, but sometimes I want to pop to the corner shop and pay double for some organic ‘happy cow’ milk and I want the experience to reflect my choice to go all indie. Sometimes I want to wander around the eclectic independent stores of a city centre and forego the flashy chain-stores. Sometimes, I just want my internet to look a little different.
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Rootin’ Tootin’ ASDA WalMart SuperDooperHugeCentre PLUS 24/7 .com

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Ye Olde Corner Shop . com

Now. Back to the scented candles. I did want to just type furiously about the importance of art in all that we do and strive to achieve as human beings and how commerce is without a soul if it is without creativity. But, the hypnotic scents of my Ocean Blossom candle have calmed me some-what and instead I believe the future is a balancing act. To achieve inner-peace/e-commerce harmony, we need to strike a balance between allowing websites to be searchable and easily navigable and allowing room to make a statement, excite people and make our mark on the market. 

Par Example look at the website for downtown LA based culty fashion brand, Free City. www.freecitysupershop.com

Free City is a cult-brand based on the ideals of the Woodstock generation. Championing free spirits and free speech the brand, and the name, come from the commune Freetown Christiania in Denmark, a “free city” within Copenhagen. Now, a brand with a history and statement as rich and as interesting as Free City needs a website that best reflects this, their www. needs to be a “free city” within the web world. 

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Free City’s website is a kaleidoscope of colour, as are the brand’s garments. Our device screen transforms from a restrictive platform to multifaceted canvas, scroll any which way you want for content, movement and flashy loveliness. 

Before you get excited, I understand this website is a little more creative than it is practical and whilst I’m not one to dowse creativity, I wouldn’t really know where to begin if I wanted to purchase from this site.

Whilst we can’t all prance around the internet with daisy chains in our hair, it would also be wrong to line up next to ASOS and copy their wireframes. Why? because how boring would that be? What would the internet become, the new media for human evolution or as plain and straight-forward as your till receipt? 

My conclusion? Best practise is all well and good when coupled with creative and exciting communication. Why follow suit when all your doing is diluting good work done by someone else? Understand the basic principles of SEO and e-com, understand that the customer needs to be able to make informed choices with ease, but also understand that the internet is our biggest and most amazing blank canvas and to forget that is to forget why we all got interested in it in the first place.

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The Fashion Rambler SALE: Zoe Karssen, Acne, FCUK French Connection, Unconditional and more from £2.00!

I’ve cleared out my wardrobe and thought I might see if I can make a pretty penny.

Have a gander and what’s on offer by clicking on Shopping in the above tabs menu or have a looksee at some picks below. More to be added shortly.

SALE SALE SALE SALE SALE SALE SALE

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‘Desire Lust and Sin’ Tee
Zoe Karssen 
Medium
£10.00 or Auction (+£2.50 P&P)
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Striped Vest
Acne Studios
Medium (Oversized)
£10.00 or Auction (+£2.50 P&P)
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Vest
Unconditional London
Small
£3.00 or Auction (+£2.50 P&P)
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Jumper 
Jack & Jones    
Large
£5.00 or Auction (+£2.50 P&P)
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Hat ‘n Scarf Set
FCUK French Connection
One Size
£3.00 or Auction (+£2.50 P&P)
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Christmas Jumper
POP Boutique
Extra Small
£5.00 or Auction (+£2.50 P&P)
BUY OR BID NOW 

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iPad: An invasion

The iPad sat on an obnoxious little fold-out easel, taunting me with it’s flashy swishy fabulousness. “Jordan, come touch me,” it said, “swipe your fingers across my face and discover that I can be whatever you want me to be.” It wasn’t lying either. If I fancied reading a book, it was wide open, perhaps I needed to send an email, it was signed sealed and delivered with love. It was, truly, everything I wanted from plastic and aluminum. But, sadly, it wasn’t mine. 

This is the story of a boy and a tablet computer.
 
For those that don’t know what a tablet is, and there aren’t many of you, a tablet is a computing device with a touch screen that enables users to perform most of the tasks more commonly performed on a laptop or desktop PC computer, but with greater mobility and some of the added benefits commonly associated with a mobile phone, like SMS text messaging. So, you can read online recipes in the kitchen whilst texting your Mum or even watch YouTube on the loo whilst learning Piano chords.

 
Now, I’m no techno wizard, I’m not big on Hi-Fis or WiFi and I’m not easily turned-on by electronics, but I do like the technology I choose to invest in to work for me in ways previously thought unimaginable. A tall order? Nope, that’s what technology is for! 

Par example, when I stepped into the smart phone world, I did so with the BlackBerry Bold. A sturdy, easy and efficient tool that could handle my five email accounts and my tendency to frequently drop it in the street. I subsequently trailed the first Nokia Lumia, a less responsive but nevertheless pretty device that was my first dabble with touch-screen. Then, my latest and current phone is the iPhone 4S, a phone worthy of deity. It just does what I want when I want it. It reminds me of meetings, TV programmes I like, allows me to email quickly and without fuss, when I’m out of the office, dictate text messages when driving (oh, as if you don’t) and I can still tweet from four accounts, manage five Facebook pages and still have a personal social(media) life too. *sigh* it’s amazing.

Functionality. That’s what I look for in a technological device. That’s what gets my techno juices flowing.

So, back to the aforementioned tablet. I first came across said tablet at work as the company I work for has both an ecommerce operation and a bricks and mortar shopfloor presence, with the shopfloor benefiting from an iPad to allow shoppers to browse the extensive catalogue of products, online. It was this iPad that was to be my first foray into the world of tablet computing.

For a long time, I tried to ignore it. I said things like, “it provides excellent opportunities for multi-channel cross-pollination,” whilst staring at it as if it might bite me. It was such a ridiculous item, something Steven Jobs pitched to a load of techno-nutters as a joke because no one in their right mind needs a phone that doesn’t phone or a laptop that doesn’t have a bloody keyboard. Right?

Wrong. I needed it. Why? Because, like all good technology, it appears from the beginning to be superfluous and irrelevant because it is light-years ahead of us silly human people. It knows that I will need something to get my Amazon order on whilst watching Downton Abbey because I can’t be arsed to switch on the laptop. It knows I’ll need to use it as an interactive clipboard-come-guest-list at my next work event because I will look SO COOL! It knows more about me than I know about myself (mainly because it is connected to the internet and I’m not…)

 
Oh, and guess what, whilst you’ve been reading my ramble over 125 tablets have been sold. Yep, according to the Guardian, one tablet will be sold every single second this Christmas shopping period. So, if you haven’t already swanned off to get yours, I’ll make it easier. Click here to go straight to the Carphone Warehouse and get your fix.

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This is a sponsored post

Brown paper packages, tied up with string: Christmas wrapping inspiration

As those who follow me on Twitter (@jordanjmcdowell) or on Instagram (@jordanjmcdowell) or who have read previous posts on this very bloggy woggy, will know that I’ve gone a little cray cray for Crimbo this year.

My obsession extends to Christmas gift wrapping. Obviously.

I’ve always been one for good gift wrap, one of the many attributes my mother passed on to me. We both would adore a Gift Wrapping Room like Niles in Fraiser, imagine the possibilities, the ribbons, the bows? Anywho, each year I adopt a theme for our gift wrapping, much to the boyf’s amusement. Last year it was glitzy high-shine black and gold, inspired by a window display I saw at House of Fraser. The year before was a bit of a Paperchase orgasm and the year before that was white paper featuring green and red typography with green and red curling ribbon along with bright red foil and gold curling ribbon. *sigh*.

This year the boyf got involved and the outcome as been quite beautiful. We are doing Christmas on a budget (again) and so making a lot of our gifts. However, the wrapping has gone a little premium and cost a bloody arm ‘n a leg, but we’re happy anyway!

This year’s theme is, “brown paper packages, tied up with string”, inspired by the well known musical. Adam and I found a gorgeous website in a Christmas magazine he picked up, as obsessed with gift wrapping as us, called pipii.co.uk

Our concept was curated using the following delicious bits ‘n bobs:

Brown Paper, obviously, also available at your local Post Office for cheaper.

£4.50 at pipii.co.uk

Brown Wrapping Paper - 8 Meter Roll 
String, again, obviously. However, we shook things up with not one but two types of string. Pushing the boat this Christmas! We firstly got red twine for the large parcels…
Jute Twine in assorted colours 
…and then a fine string for the delicate boxes.

Divine Bakers Twine 

We then went a little over board and opted for a really nice tape, which I at first thought was a ribbon, that says: “do not open til 25th December”. Isn’t that cute? Note: the tape is not very sticky so don’t expect it to work as a sealant. It’s more, aesthetic than adhesive.


Then we needed tags….

Recycled Paper Gift Tags - 20 Red and Green 

And some gorgeous stickers to stick on the tags…

30 Christmas Carol Stickers  

‘n there you have it. A Christmas wrapping theme curated and fulfilled for a splendid Christmas of wrapping magic.

What do your parcels look like this year?

END.