Maplin is the UK’s number one specialist technology retailer, with over 200 stores in the UK and Ireland and an impressive inventory of over 30,000 products across 800 different categories of technology.
Despite the impressive scale and great reputation for technological expertise and advice, the brand isn’t typically the first destination for consumers seeking the latest innovative tech. This presents a critical perception challenge - one that Maplin are tackling head on.
Maplin’s ambition is to appeal to a much broader audience by reinventing their stores, creating a brilliant omni-channel experience as well as honing their product ranges to focus on rapidly growing Smart Home technology.
At the heart of this transformation is a new, 3,120 sq ft concept store at The Beehive Centre in Cambridge - the perfect space to test new approaches. With only a short time before the new store was due to open in November 2016, Maplin approached The App Business (TAB) to explore how mobile could be leveraged to deliver against their key business objectives and enhance the in-store experience.
Go slow, to go fast
Maplin already had two separate product ideas clearly in mind, and with a pressing deadline looming, it would have been all too easy for a less experienced team to simply start building.
However, both Maplin and TAB understood that sometimes, before you can go fast - you have to go slow. The biggest challenges lay in interrogating the detail: each existing idea needed further clarification if they were to add tangible business value for Maplin. In addition, the complexities of delivery needed to be comprehensively explored to ensure risks that might affect the deadline were properly identified and mitigated.
As a result, and despite the pressures of time, the TAB team first conducted an in-depth workshop, followed by a rapid review of the outcomes underpinning each product idea. This proved essential to clarify the business case, and identify known project risks. The outcomes and risks continued to be iterated and reviewed as the project progressed, with the help of prototypes and user feedback.
Seamless, effective collaboration between both parties was essential for efficient delivery. With that in mind, the joint team also developed a set of core project principles. These acted as a simple, flexible framework, and fostered a shared sense of focus and commitment throughout the project that meant tight deadlines didn’t mean a compromise in quality.
Seven weeks, two apps later
The joint team’s delivery success speaks for itself: in just seven weeks, the team refined Maplin’s initial ideas, and built two brand new apps in time for the Cambridge store opening.
The first, Product Display, showcases a selection of Maplin’s range of Smart Home products. The products themselves sit, side-by-side, with the interactive Product Display app. This delivers a much more tactile experience for the customer with further information, help and ideas only a tap away.
The second app, called Extended Range, has information on the entire range of products from Maplin’s extensive inventory. This can be used as a catalogue for customers in-store, but primarily it provides Maplin’s knowledgeable colleagues with all the information they need to better serve customers.
Making it easy
Given the pressure of the store opening, the TAB team took every opportunity to make the transition and handover process as smooth as possible for Maplin.
This included extensive style guides for uploading any new products to the range, along with detailed, intuitive walkthroughs for colleagues to ensure they could use both new apps effectively from the moment the concept store opened.
Early indicators show that the new in-store experience is resonating well with customers: preliminary figures show a 30% increase in footfall and an excellent 20% increase in sales during the first few months of opening.
"An excellent piece of work delivered to the very high standards we expect of TAB. The pace and team work was exceptional. It was a very short and demanding timescale – and as usual, TAB rose to the challenge!”
Director of Digital Enterprise (Maplin)