Full design, build and delivery of an award-winning mobile application, to a challenging strategic timeframe.

Box UK has supported the digital transformation of global quality-of-life service provider Sodexo for over two years, including through the delivery of a programme of bespoke software development that helped overhaul their Employee Benefits platform, to provide a stable and feature-rich offering for clients and end-users.

Screenshot of Sodexo Employee Discounts site

As part of Sodexo’s ongoing development roadmap, a bespoke mobile discounts app that would provide easy access to vouchers and other money-saving offers had been identified as a key strategic priority. A fixed client deadline also required that this application be delivered within extremely tight timescales.

Box UK therefore worked quickly to collaboratively define a Minimum Viable Product (MVP) for the app, along with a roadmap of longer-term improvements to be implemented post-launch.

In light of the challenging timeframe, a hybrid development approach was recommended – enabling a single web application to be made available to the required platforms through native ‘wrappers’. At the same time, the Box UK User Experience & Design (UX&D) team worked with Sodexo’s existing branding to rapidly create intuitive and engaging interfaces, tailored to the use contexts and constraints of mobile.

Mockups of the Sodexo Discounts mobile application

Using Agile methodologies, the Sodexo Discounts app was delivered in just 8 two-week development sprints. Initial response to the application has surpassed Sodexo’s expectations with over 40,000 users downloading the app since launch and an average increase of 4,000 extra transactions being processed in a six-month period, compared to the previous year, equating to an average increase of approximately £40K in spend by month.

The app has already proven itself as a valuable revenue-generation stream for Sodexo (making up 35% of total Employee Benefits spend over the last six months), and has increased the client’s competitiveness in the market, enabling them to increase price-per-user in line with others operating in the space. It was also named a winner in the international Communicator Awards, winning a Gold Award of Excellence for ‘Best Buying Experience for Mobile Apps / Sites’.

"Box UK is a fantastic partner for our business... helping us not only in the definition and execution of our product roadmap but also providing proactive recommendations to challenges we face."

James Allan
Head of Product Management, Sodexo

Defining the MVP

To maximise velocity from the outset, Box UK kicked the project off with a user story mapping workshop, bringing together stakeholders from across the client organisation to facilitate rapid knowledge-sharing and creative problem-solving.

Box UK team members at work

During the workshop, stakeholders explored two representative personas – an HR Manager responsible for buying the solution, and an Employee who would be the end-user – and focused on how the app might meet their needs, goals and pain points. The group then translated this insight into a broad user journey narrative, onto which additional detail could be added.

This approach not only supported the identification of core features to meet Sodexo’s short-term tactical goals, but also delivered a ‘big picture’ view of how individual requirements would fit together to serve the wider strategic vision for the app.

Hybrid app development

After conducting a thorough assessment of the development options available, Box UK recommended a bespoke hybrid development approach be taken to ensure the Discounts app served Sodexo’s short- and long-term objectives. A rapid, cost-effective way of delivering mobile apps, hybrid application development requires the creation of just a single web application that is then automatically wrapped in a native function to enable it to be submitted to multiple platforms such as iOS and Android.

Diagram showing how a hybrid app works

This approach both met the project’s challenging timescales, and delivered the necessary flexibility to introduce new mobile-specific features and functionality in line with Sodexo’s strategic roadmap.

To provide the client with added confidence in the suitability of this approach, a low-fidelity, working proof-of-concept was first built to demonstrate key elements of the app, such as integration with payment provider SagePay. Having validated this crucial integration, development then began using the hybrid mobile application development framework Cordova, with the team working in 2-week Agile sprints to support the regular delivery of working features and functionality.

Rapid feature delivery

Bespoke development work focused on the core features that had been identified for the MVP, including login processes, user dashboards, search and filtering, and an eWallet to view new and redeemed eVouchers. To provide access to these vouchers, the Box UK team also created a custom API that integrates the Discounts application with Sodexo’s Employee Benefits platform.

It was crucial that the API support complex exclusion rules, to ensure the correct product content is always displayed to users based on their specific subscription. As Box UK also manages the ongoing development of the Employee Benefits platform for Sodexo, the team was able to apply extensive domain knowledge here – including an in-depth understanding of the associated dependencies and risks – to safeguard accurate content delivery without compromising on performance and the end-user experience.

Box UK’s deep domain knowledge proved beneficial throughout the course of development, helping ensure that areas of potential code weakness and regression issues were identified and mitigated against from the outset. All code was also subjected to stringent test coverage, and architectural decisions validated, to guarantee the security, stability and scalability of the application.

Additionally, Box UK’s previous experience helped drive efficiency gains, with key roles such as project manager, business analyst and solution architect shared across the Employee Benefits and Discounts projects, facilitating the effective transfer of knowledge to enable development to continue at pace. As a result, a robust, high-quality MVP was delivered in just 8 two-week sprints, meeting Sodexo’s agreed strategic deadline.

A first-class user experience

Alongside providing users with instant access to available offers, it was vital that the app deliver a first-class browsing and purchasing experience, particularly as users would likely be interacting with this content while on the move. Box UK’s UX&D consultants rapidly conducted a series of in-depth user research activities, working as embedded members of the development team to maximise collaboration and efficiency.

Woman at computer screen with graph on it

Encompassing interviews with current and prospective users, competitor analysis, and analytics reviews, the insight generated from this research was then used to validate and refine an effective site structure, group and prioritise content items, and support the creation of clickable wireframes for key pages across the app. Rapid usability testing also took place as part of each sprint to validate design decisions, and ensure that the finished app offered a fresh, modern look and feel while also effectively supporting user goals.

In particular, ensuring that the basket and checkout offering was intuitive and engaging was a key priority. A compelling user journey was developed for this task that observed the latest app basket conventions, to maximise conversion rates and mitigate basket abandonments.

A valuable new revenue stream

Delivered on time and to budget, the Sodexo Discounts mobile app now has 40,000 active users, with an average increase of 4,000 purchases and £40,000 in spend in the six months since launch, compared to the previous year. Feedback across stakeholders and end-users has been extremely positive, and the app has given Sodexo a vital competitive edge in its market.

Box UK continues to work with the client on the development of new features for the app – including those identified in the initial requirements session, as well as in response to user feedback and requests – to support its ongoing improvement and optimisation.

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