// Case Study
CRM + Mobile
// Project Overview
eliteUSA has a thriving business providing personal shopper services to clients around the world.
eliteUSA approached Art+Logic with a mobile application they wanted to roll-out to their clients to provide them an easy way to request exclusive luxury items like shoes, watches, and purses — all sourced by eliteUSA’s personal shoppers. eliteUSA had attempted to create these applications with other developers unsuccessfully. The applications and codebase we inherited contained broken features, an uninspired UI/UX, and was so slow that many users believed the app had crashed.
A review of the source code pointed to some likely performance issues and a baroque implementation. We initially proposed that a refactor and redesign would address eliteUSA’s concerns. It wasn’t until Art+Logic cleared away obscuring factors and began working on how the application was querying the database that we found that this functionality had been so poorly architected that the best path forward would be just to rewrite the applications.
As the development team addressed this issue, the design team began working with eliteUSA to define an optimal workflow for their users. Setting up an account, requesting an item, obtaining a response from a personal shopper, and paying for that item had to be as painless as possible while also ensuring eliteUSA had the fulfillment data they needed.
The previous developer had implemented a Magento solution that, aside from needing a significant version update, provided an unfriendly UI and required overly complex integrations of key shipping tools used by eliteUSA.
In addition to the app, eliteUSA also needed a marketing website to drive new and existing users to the new solution.
What had appeared as a substantial refactor and redesign effort was evolving under our feet and eliteUSA and Art+Logic took this opportunity to step back from the effort and re-evaluate.
Art+Logic performed a quick proof of concept (POC) on several eCommerce solutions while also estimating the cost to update Magneto and provide a more streamlined interface. Ultimately, we proposed leveraging eliteUSA’s in-progress WordPress marketing site and creating an enterprise solution using WooCommerce. We additionally validated the payment systems used by eliteUSA and proposed updating the existing sales app for iOS (written in swift) to work with the new API and WooCommerce. Finally, we recreated their mobile client applications using Xamarin, which allowed us to develop the Android/iOS apps in a cross platform environment while providing an efficient solution to generate native apps.
Working with eliteUSA’s team, we focused on a defined scope of work that would allow them to relaunch with all of the relevant logistics integrations in place. We developed an updated and enhanced Sales Enterprise App to be used by elite USA’s Sales Agents to create products, create and manage orders, generate invoices, process payments, and manage clients.
With the Sales Enterprise App in place, we moved on to creating a new and extended multi-platform client application. elitUSA’s customers use this app to request items (Wish), communicate with the eliteUSA sales team, and pay for and manage their orders. This app worked directly with the WooCommerce solution and the custom REST API created by Art+Logic.
eliteUSA’s business has been growing rapidly, and they expanded from their headquarters in Michigan to locations in France, Germany, and Kuwait. In light of this growth, eliteUSA and Art+Logic entered into a cycle of iterating on the solutions as user feedback came in from clients, sales people, and the marketing team. Art+Logic’s software testing team’s test plans and keen eye for detail ensured that releases were consistent regardless of the updates performed.
In November of 2020, eliteUSA moved from active development with Art+Logic to our Production Support Services team, which provides hosting services and works with the development team to monitor and maintain the application.
- Create a robust enterprise solution that is easy to use for the Management and Admin team, while ensuring eliteUSA’s clients’ expectations were met. The solution allows the company to continue to scale and deliver new features to their based on the nuances of eliteUSA’s business model.
- Enable eliteUSA to track client requests from request through the sourcing, purchase, and shipping cycle.
- Transition eliteUSA clients from the MVP solution of requesting items and communicating through WhatsApp to a discrete mobile application, without client attrition and at a high level of application adoption.
- Make payment easier: eliteUSA serves countries with discrete currencies, banking policies, and payment solutions.
- Provide an opportunity to present eliteUSA’s Instagram feed to their customers and allow them to create a request directly from those images.
- Ensure that eliteUSA’s client application supports Apple/Google Pay for a quick and easy payment solution.
The value of the personal luxury goods market in 2019.
LVMH (Louis Vuitton Moet Hennessy) was the most valuable luxury brand in the world, with a brand value of about 51.8 billion U.S. dollars in 2020.
In 2018 online luxury shopping grew 22% to nearly €27 billion; it now represents 10% of all luxury sales.
// Notes on the Arabic Translation
After the initial release of the client apps on Android and iOS, eliteUSA requested that we create an update that would provide users the ability to view and use the app in Arabic.
This created a myriad of technical challenges, not least of which was using a RightToLeft language in an App that was designed to always be LeftToRight.
The first step was extracting all the in-app text and providing a spreadsheet with each English text item on a line, with the idea that the Arabic translation would be entered in the column on the right.
Xamarin, being built on .NET Core, supports multiple languages fairly well, and uses a defined XML format from Microsoft (ResX). This uses a default language file, and then adds additional languages as files with the country code specified.
The biggest challenge was in editing, as it included both LTR and RTL lines mixed. The text editor would flip the cursor around and change the entry order as it moved between the text types. This made making minor changes problematic. The solution was to build a tool that would take the spreadsheet and convert it to the .resx file automatically and then use it for even small changes.
We also experienced issues with sentence construction. In English the app would construct a sentence such as ‘Order #1234 is now ready,’ by replacing a marker sequence with the order number. However, in Arabic, this marker sequence had to be repositioned and as the Arabic version does not use the ‘#’ sign, we had to create code that would include the ‘#’ depending on the app language.
There were several special case problems — in particular when English text was mixed with Arabic in a single sentence. This would happen most often with the company name, which was not localized but left as eliteUSA. Sometimes, the system parser would get it right, and sometimes it would flip where the text appeared. Again, these had to be identified and then fixed on a case by case basis.
We overcame the lack of non-Arabic speakers on the Art+Logic team by generating a document that contained screen grabs of the app in English for every possible state, and then matching them to the same screen in Arabic. This allowed the localization team to review the text on a side by side basis and confirm the Arabic text was correct in the context in which it was being used.
“What you wear is how you present yourself to the world, especially today, when human contacts are so quick. Fashion is instant language.”
— Miuccia Prada
// The Entrepreneur’s Journey
eliteUSA started out rather serendipitously: The founder, Ella Dark, had friends in the Middle East who couldn’t get their hands on certain luxury items and Ella, being a good friend, offered to help. She found the items and mailed them out. At Art+Logic, we field many, many inquiries from people with great ideas, an instant money-making hit, or a gig-idea they hope to turn into a full-time revenue stream. Very, very few are successful and we aren’t afraid of sharing those odds with anyone who asks. eliteUSA is a rare exception but Ella Dark is quick to reiterate that this company took years and years to build and that getting to this point in the company’s journey wasn’t easy — at all. This business required careful nurturing, perseverance, sometimes difficult decision-making, not to mention a discerning eye for what was a must-have versus what was nice-to-have for her business at a particular moment.
The entrepreneur expects there to be twists and turns along the road to creating a mature product, solution, or company. Handling embedded biases towards keeping things status quo is frequently one of them.
Although Ella Dark knew she was onto something with her idea to bring personal shopping for luxury items online, she faced an unexpected hurdle convincing boutique retailers to consider an online experience — one they felt may be off-brand from the intimacy and exclusivity of face-to-face interactions over champagne and high-end chocolates. They kept requesting that she bring in her clients, an impossibility in most cases.
Kismet — or a testament to Ella Dark’s acute sense of the market itself — drove luxury brands to shift their paradigm in response to end-client demand, largely driven by the decreasing median age of the personal luxury goods market: Younger consumers bring different expectations to a retail experience. Many high-end luxury brands have e-commerce channels now, but eliteUSA slots nicely into several market niches — not only does the company serve underserved regions of the world (regions often lumped under “Other” in industry market reports), but much of the bespoke, personal experience for users of her service remains intact.
Ella Dark is a Visionary Client.
Projects led by Visionary Clients can be incredibly rewarding but they also carry inherent risks — the tendency to scope-creep as new ideas and needs rapidly materialize, issues with articulating what is yet-to-be anywhere, and the ever-present “I’ll know it when I see it” mentality. Ella Dark’s husband, Muaz Rabah, played a key role in the success of this endeavor by systematically capturing the key elements of Ella’s vision, prioritizing them, and ensuring that features weren’t overwrought. Muaz was always able to answer our question: “What is the most important thing to do NEXT?” with decisiveness that allowed the project to proceed with minimal thrash.
// Picking the right platform
WooCommerce is a popular WordPress eCommerce extension. It offers the ability to seamlessly administer products inside of a CMS platform, while providing an extensive library of hooks for customization to meet the needs of each company’s business needs — a great blend of solid out-of-the-box functionality with exceptional flexibility.
WooCommerce serves as eliteUSA’s central hub for all product and order information. WooCommerce manages the product catalog, order workflow, payment information, as well as shipping status.
We customized WooCommerce extensively, by first making the store inaccessible, and orders only payable via a customer specific link and provided the client an order confirmation email. The checkout process was customized as well, providing a one-page checkout, and several external payment processing solutions, including invoice Ninja, KNET, MyFatoorah, Stripe and the option to pay via EFT.
The dashboard was heavily modified to reflect eliteUSA’s existing business workflow, and allowed multiple user-permission levels access to only the order information they required to execute their jobs quickly and efficiently.
For eliteUSA’s management, Art+Logic provided a number of custom reports and enabled Admins to assign client orders to specific personal shoppers based upon shifting criteria.
“Luxury is attention to detail, originality, exclusivity and above all, quality.” Angelo Bonati
// The Team
Project Manager (Phase II), Xamarin Development, Sales App (swift)
Darby Van Ultert
Software QA tester
iOS & Android
iOS & Android with test data displayed
From initial project discovery to launch.
Maintenance and support since launch.