Black Milk Clothing is an Australian Pure Play retailer that I happen to be mildly obsessed with. Their USP being stretchy elastane with a high lustre finish adorned in the most gorgeous, wacky and wonderful prints, they have taken the internet shoppers dream world by storm. Unfortunately they have not moved into the native application network, so instead I thought I would review their web app, seeing as it sits pride of place inside my 'Pure Play' app folder.
You should definitely have a look at their website if you haven't before. They have become a cult brand, with thousands of followers buying the designer garments, rushing to take photographs wearing them and posting them on the Facebook profile. As such, the brand has capitalised from utilising their loyal followers as their models, re-posting the most glamorous and exciting photos from the thousands of options they receive daily. I must say, I have myself taken the odd instagram photograph in their latest leggings or swimsuit to find myself adorning their Facebook feed hours later. Each consumer photograph is also tagged as the corresponding garment tag, meaning that at the bottom of every product screen, the consumer can scroll through hundreds of tagged consumer pics of them wearing the exact garment. Very clever indeed. I myself have completely dismissed a particular piece and then after viewing the styling ideas of other 'Sharkies' (The Black Milk loyal follower who apparently 'noms hard' at every product launch) I have then become obsessed with the idea I must buy that garment. I could write a whole lecture on the marketing techniques of this brand as they far surpass others, yet lets get into what their mobile app looks like shall we...
The main screen opens to their brand logo above a picture of their primary promotion model Julietta who just happens to look incredible in whatever piece she is wearing. Above this, the clock is counting down to the next Black Milk product launch 'Star Wars,' just in case we weren't all excited enough. If a new product launch is coming out, it is promoted before the last launch has even come out, so that buzz is constantly building and building for each and every launch. It means that people in the UK have to awaken at 5am to sync with the 2pm Aus launches because they are that desperate to get their hands on the sell out pieces. And I am not over exaggerating here. I can not exclude myself from this.
Below this are the categories in light greys and black text. Very boring for this brand I must say, but it does form some consistency between their rather modern and minimalistic website. It leaves the clothes looking like the brightest thing on the page and that is all part of the plan. At the bottom of the categories are the two recent launches, 'Sick Puppies' and 'Ammo' and finally the 'Museum' section where past clothing pieces are stored. How many other retailers make a museum out of their past pieces? Exactly!
Moving inside the product category of choice, the user again gets to see a lot of grey and black, this time with a small thumbnail of the garment. At this point, each product also displays which sizes are available - something they have to do now because the need for stock was so high and girls were proclaiming suicide every time they did not bag a pair of leggings. Now they are calmly sedated by the assurance that more will be stocked soon.
By moving into the product screen, the thumbnail is moved to full screen with a number of options for further views. These are the cathedral leggings, and yes I can see them hanging on my rail from where I am sitting. Having an enlarged view of the garments is perfect for seeing the piece in more detail and having them set against a white background really brings out all of the fantastic colours. By scrolling horizontally, the viewer can see more. This can sometimes be slightly glitchy though, and the screen isn't sure if you're scrolling for more images or just scrolling down.
Below is the full product screen from top to bottom...
By moving down the screen, the user can view the imagery and find out a small amount of information about the product. However for most Black Milk consumers, they already know the thread count of these garments practically, so this information is usually overlooked as standard. The price is then shown in Australian Dollars, something that the website converts into GBP which is really handy. This could perhaps do with being changed just for added price assurance to the foreign user.
Below this are the available sizes. As I mentioned, here they reassure the consumer that although size Large is out of stock, they are sewing more, you can put down the knife. Of course Im exaggerating and it is never this extreme, but some of the melodrama you view on the facebook page is insane.
Further to this, the photo tags have been implemented on the mobile app concurrent with the website. The user can scroll through hundreds of tagged pictures of avid fans wearing the products in various weird and wonderful circumstances. In fact, the more weird the better in some cases. See below.
Exhibit A, as mentioned.
So, moving into payment and actually settling on the perfect pair, the user adds it to their bag. They then move into the cart area where they can see their product summary. Here it is displayed without packaging costs however, but you will be hit with that at the next page. If you are happy, you can proceed. However, I am not that happy with the page. It is so bland, I want to be super excited about this purchase, not just sent to a standard grey screen that looks like it has been built in two minutes using the default layout settings.
The user can login to view their account and add the garment to their list of previous purchases, or they can continue as a guest if this is a fleeting visit. It is all very straight forward and easy to use. Not much thought has gone into the design apart from offering ease of use and clarity. Note how the menu drop down tab is always displayed on the top of every page also, just in case you want to move around the app. This takes the place of the usual bottom toolbar, but as this is a web-app, it may not have been feasible. But at least there is a menu option there.
Finally, a small note on the museum area. Here they move any previous products that have sold out completely, so that consumers can ogle the products they have missed and therefore would kill for. On a few occasions, the odd piece is remade and the stocks fly out once again. But can you imagine Topshop doing this with their stock? First of all there would be too much stock and secondly I am pretty sure that there are a number of pieces that Topshop wish they could throw to the back of the cupboard and never mention again. This Museum section says how proud Black Milk is of every single piece they have ever made and just how fantastic they have always been. It's a brilliant idea and one that other brands just haven't managed to grasp yet.
Overall, it is hard for me to review this app without feeling slightly biased. I am a big fan of this brand and I hate to say anything derogatory about them. However, with my mobile head on, the app is a bit of a disappointment. I would rather see more white than grey to match their website and more focus placed on the garments, filling more of the drab grey space. I would also perhaps like to see a Lookbook area with the most recent promo shoots with their favourite model Julietta, just so I can view some professional shots and get excited also. They also bring out a video podcast every Friday, why not put this on here also so I can watch it on my way to work? James, if you're reading this, lets talk yes?
Overall, if I am reviewing this app and not the brand, I would rate it a mediocre 2 stars out of five, and it hurts me to say this. The 2 stars is derived from their implementation of the tagged photos areas and number of images with product information. With this said, I am so sure though that Black Milk are going to hit us soon with a mobile app to die for and I can review it with the big 5 shiny stars. Until that day, I will continue to browse the website daily.
All screenshots taken of the Black Milk Web app, September 2012. Logo taken from a generic google search.