Mercari Europe

Design and branding strategy

Helping to launch Japan’s biggest C2C shopping app in the UK, and beyond

This page explains about our ongoing UK Design and Branding Strategy work with Mercari, we’ve also helped them with their Product design development, which you can see here.

The client

Launched in Japan in 2013, Mercari is now Japan’s biggest customer to customer (C2C) shopping app, with over a third of the population using it to buy and sell between each other. After launching in the US in 2014, there are now over 60 million people who have downloaded the app globally.

Mercari gives users a simple and secure way to quickly buy and sell a variety of new and used items including clothing, beauty, baby and kids, homeware, electronics and more. Users benefit from features including discounts and credits for being better buyers and sellers, no hidden fees on purchase prices, a buyer guarantee that refunds the user if something goes wrong and customer service responses in 24 hours. Mercari is your place to buy and sell.

The problem

2017 sees the launch of Mercari in the UK. They came to Triple Double because of our approach and mix of disciplines, from UX to branding to teaching.

Mercari were looking to collaborate with designers for the very first time.

Whilst download numbers are high globally, there was a lack of brand consistency across touchpoints. This made it difficult to create brand awareness. We worked alongside the entire Mercari team on a wide variety of problems and projects, leading up to the company’s UK launch.

How the Mercari brand looked across the US and Japan.

Insights

As the UK high street continues to come under increasing pressure, shopping in the UK continues to grow online. Now, more than ever, the UK population are looking for shopping opportunities and brands that cater to their needs in an honest and transparent way and always with the need for great customer service.

The UK online shopper’s pain point are their expectations. Companies like Amazon and eBay have set, and continue to grow the standard of what shoppers expect online. Mercari has a huge opportunity to lead the way in the C2C space because the competition doesn’t currently meet these expectations.

How we solved it

Getting to know the brand

We took the time to observe and understand the developing brand strategy that Mercari were working on with 2CV, a consumer market research agency. Through audience, feature and brand proposition testing, we were able to gather insights from both the users and Mercari’s internal team.

We listened to the positive and negative challenges coming up for the UK launch and how the business will move forwards.

It was clear to us that rather than simply providing design support, some of these challenges could be solved through a design strategy. A considered approach with design could help connect up some of the inconsistencies in the business, and not just from a visual perspective.

Mercari needed an opinion on design, as well as practical ways of executing design.

As we love to do with everyone we work with, we embedded directly into Mercari’s team and set up camp in their office. This enabled us to constantly observe, listen to and understand their challenges. By working in this manner we picked up invaluable insights and understood the company’s culture. This ‘plugging in’ approach would be key in helping to solve their problems and deliver results.

Developing the Why, How, What of Mercari design

We first worked with all key stakeholders from the Product, Marketing, Customer Service and Leadership teams to develop Mercari’s design strategy. Paul ran internal workshops to gather opinion, insight and feedback from everyone involved. All stakeholders were encouraged to champion their areas of the business so that we could test what worked and what didn’t. This meant stakeholders brought insight from problems that needed to be solved such as what happens when a user’s experience goes right as well as more visual tasks like colour and photography.

Everyone was already helping each other to understand the value of design and branding consistency – as this is how a user would eventually experience the brand.

Outcomes of the workshops were documented throughout at Mercari’s office.

In parallel, we began auditing the current brand in Japan and the US as well as competitor brands. Looking at all touch points, we covered user onboarding to social media imagery, through to iconography.

Everyone began to see the clear opportunities to achieve easy wins where Mercari could outperform their competitors. 🙌

It was as important to be critical about Mercari themselves as it was with their competitors. Everyone tested their opinions, insight and feedback before reaching an overall concept for the design strategy – ‘Why’ Mercari actually uses design.

A design framework, built around the Mercari product

Mercari’s design framework overview.

To develop ‘How Mercari uses design’, the most important consideration was to not ignore what has already gone so well – the product itself. Instead of creating an entirely new approach for producing design and branding, we looked to the product’s development process. What was and wasn’t working, building and improving on this.

Developing a ‘design framework’, complementing the core product, made up of individually-designed components such as colour and 📷 photography.

The framework creates reasons and purpose when using design, not just reactive executions and personal taste. It helps to create and use design consistently across all touch points – both internally and externally. Less…”I think we should use this colour.” …and more… “We should use a colour based on our framework.” The framework approach allows Mercari’s design to be both ’emotional’ (brand awareness) and ‘functional’ (product experience). It gives reasons and purpose so executions can be flexible – focused through to fun.

What we designed

The approach was then applied to various areas of the Mercari business, from corporate executions to marketing executions – rolling out consistency for the brand.

The Mercari logos are the most recognisable elements of the brand but had never had guidelines before. Different versions were being used for different executions, so this was the first problem to solve to create consistency. Defining when to use full-colour versions and when to use the ‘box’ on its own.

The big shift with colour for Mercari was to move away from using red as the main colour, changing this to the blue instead. Red represented warning and wasn’t the most flexible colour when being used in UI instances. We are now developing how different shades of the Mercari blue and red help extend the usage of colour for the brand. The main blue and red are used when Mercari is speaking as a brand, and other shades from the two main colours are used when they are speaking to users, for example.

Lifestyle photography is now being used as a key brand asset of Mercari, and as their competitors don’t utilise the power of photography or execute it with a high level of quality – this creates an exciting opportunity to lead the way.

We are still currently developing the overall concept of Mercari’s photography but its creative direction is now led by three over arching principles – to be real, relevant and accurate. Even using certain stock photography right now, it helps to create a level of quality and a consistency that users can benefit from.

Product photography is also hugely important for C2C marketplaces so we helped the team to execute high-quality product images for launch.

This helps to set a standard and encourage users who are selling to do the same.

Mercari product images from sellers should not feel kitsch, unrealistic or use filters. They shouldn’t look like a stock image, but clearly show that they belong to that person’s home or environment. Detail shots are now also encouraged for a better buyer experience – direct feedback from users during the feature and brand proposition testing.

The first executions that we have created include Facebook and Instagram adverts to test user engagement, advertising network banners, App Store images, social media executions, email banners and website assets.

Facebook and Instagram advertising.

App Store preview images for iPhone.

Play Store preview images for Android tablet.

Mercari never had design and brand guidelines before, so this first stage culminated in the creation of these – bringing together the strategy and execution. We always show real executions and use jargon-free language when producing guidelines, being useful for Mercari’s internal team and for their external partners. Not a single tote bag or coffee cup in sight.

As we continue to work with Mercari on their design and branding strategy, it will be tested and refined as a team – bringing brand consistency and value for everyone involved.

Jemma Stacey
Head of UK Marketing, Mercari Europe

“After looking for a design partner that could act as an extension of our team, Paul plugged seamlessly into our set-up, helping us lead our efforts to localise our UK brand. He helped us to develop a design strategy, as an extension of our brand strategy, through to executions of UI and graphic design. His approach has been integral in helping to educate and align our internal teams and key stakeholders.

The result of this has meant we are now creating consistency across our customer journey – with Paul helping to unify a vision of our design and helping everyone understand it’s importance and value. As a historically engineering focused business, this has been a huge step forward!

I was very impressed by Paul's ability to very quickly integrate with the team and have a clear understanding of our business and customer needs. His very customer centric approach aligned perfectly with ours.

Paul loves design and is really passionate and engaging in educating others as to why. He is thoughtful, has good sense of humour – and a person that everyone enjoys having as ‘a part of our team.’ He always delivers – on time and on point.”