From mobile to click-and-collect, we asked some of fashion’s digital leaders how they are keeping pace with rapid chang
- Personalising the customer experience is top of the agenda
- Click-and-collect is growing but creates space and staffing issues
- Mobile traffic is soaring but lagging in terms of conversion
- Stores are becoming distribution centres and showrooms
- Ecommerce helps to clear stock during tough trading periods
Online retail is changing rapidly. The smartphone is the 21st-century shop window, used to search for the best deals, with physical stores often seen as collection points, showrooms and sources of inspiration.
Multichannel leaders from retailers including Jack Wills, Thomas Pink, Reiss and Levi’s joined Drapers’ latest Multichannel Trends Report roundtable, held in association with logistics expert DHL Supply Chain and delivery software specialist Electio, to debate changing shopping habits.
The importance of online
Most companies represented at the roundtable had found trading tough so far this year. The unseasonable weather stalled sales of summery clothing and led to discounting across the high street.
Zsuzsanna Berkecz, store manager and operations manager at premium brand Daks, said: “People aren’t buying lightweight products. Being on Bond Street means we can’t go on mid-season Sale. [However] we’re going to go on Sale early because it’s been disappointing and is still really cold.”
Antony Comyns, head of ecommerce at shirtmaker Hawes & Curtis, said online had become an important tool during tougher trading periods: “Online offers a chance to personalise discounts, so it’s not just a big red sign across your window.”
But can retailers still cultivate loyalty among shoppers who are committed to finding the lowest prices online? Claudia Roggenkamp, senior director for ecommerce for Levi’s Europe, said some shoppers would be lured by offers elsewhere online but she believes others are swayed more by brand experience: “There’s a segment [of customers] that’s more brand-driven and value getting a great brand experience.”
Jonathan Pilbro, vice-president of business development of retail at logistics specialist DHL Supply Chain, said a subscription model such as Amazon Prime or Asos Premier, where shoppers pay a fee for a range of additional benefits such as free next-day delivery, had the potential to create deeper and longer-lasting relationships: “It’s a way to enhance the brand experience. You give them lots of special stuff to keep them coming back.”
Nickyl Raithatha, founder and chief executive of Finery, said the womenswear brand preferred to let customers earn benefits from their loyalty rather than making them pay for it: “We offer next-day delivery incentives and it really increases purchase rates.”
The popularity of click-and-collect is growing exponentially, but meeting this demand is becoming more tricky for retailers. Stores are being carved up, with prime selling space devoted to click-and-collect.
Pilbro said the store must evolve rapidly: “It needs to become a much more customer-oriented selling environment but, if we’re really going to leverage omnichannel, its stock has to be available globally.”
Warehouse has introduced an endless aisle concept and will ship stock from a store if the product is not in the distribution centre. However, Cristelle Delaporte, the womenswear chain’s digital marketing manager, said this could sometimes be a distraction for store staff who were also picking and packing: “It’s time spent off the shop floor with customers. Do we start employing trained picking and packing staff for stores?”
Third-party click-and-collect services such as Collect+ and Doddle are also becoming more popular.
Andrew Hill, commercial director at delivery software specialist Electio, said retailers should embrace these services to lessen pressure on stores and give customers what they want: “That’s got to be the next play in click-and-collect. Retailers need to forget about getting the customer into their own store so they can buy something else and allow them to collect in any store that is convenient for them.”
Anthony Smith, Electio’s national sales manager, questioned how convenient own store collection is for some shoppers: “If I’m going into the city then it’s convenient for me. If not, it’s costing me a fiver to park.”
Hill said there was a greater opportunity for retailers across the high street to turn their store network into collection points for other retailers.
The mobile revolution
Mobile continues to grow in importance. Some at the roundtable, including Levi’s and Finery, said it accounted for more than 50% of web traffic. However, conversion is still lagging behind on mobile devices.
Raithatha said Finery was investing to convert mobile browsers into desktop buyers: “Converting the mobile experience into a purchasing one is a big opportunity that no one has quite cracked yet.”
The etailer now asks those abandoning a mobile session without proceeding to checkout if they would like details of the items in their baskets emailed to them.
Simon Maylott, head of ecommerce at womenswear retailer East, said there was a big opportunity to harness mobile in stores: “We need to join up mobile and store to give our consumers the best experience when they’re in or near the store.”
The role of the store
Although the store still plays a big part in the omnichannel experience, its role is changing.
“We’re trying to get theatre into our stores. For con-venience, you can shop online,” said Erica Vil-kauls, chief operating officer at shirtmaker Thomas Pink. “It feels like a time to make something of the store. I buy everything online because stores are not very exciting.”
She said Thomas Pink was considering introducing technology such as digital signage, interactive mirrors and RFID into stores. However, she warned that retailers must introduce technology only if it enhanced the customer experience.
Comyns said there was a benefit in introducing technology that the customer was already familiar with: “If you put a touchscreen into a store, something that looks like what you get your train tickets out of every day, then people will use it.”
Vilkauls also pointed out that new technology needed to be embraced by store staff: “The biggest challenge is not the actual tech but the cultural side of things. People are used to making commission based on sales in store. How do you break that down in an omnichannel world?” Warehouse has introduced similar incentives since it brought digital receipts in store. Store staff receive bonuses if they obtain email addresses from more than 20% of transactions. Delaporte said its best-performing stores secured email addresses from more than 70% of customers.
Understanding the customer and giving them what they want is high on the agenda in the year ahead.
Vilkauls said Thomas Pink’s priority was personalising the customer experience based on the data and new technology it owns.
Many around the table were excited about omni-channel. Roggenkamp said she was working towards merging the omnichannel experience with Levi’s deep understanding of its customers: “We’ll have a brand and a customer and will be able to maintain a direct relationship between the two. Everything else, from devices or store formats, will just be noise.”
The pace of change in omnichannel has been rapid over the past 12 months and it is certain to remain at the forefront of innovation and growth. Find out more by registering to view Drapers Multichannel Trends report for free, where you’ll find exclusive interviews with John Lewis and VeryExclusive.co.uk.
Drapers asks: Are apps still relevant?
Bilal Adham, head of marketing, Jack Wills
“The progressive web, which is built on responsive websites with app-like features, is where consumers are heading, especially with the rise of 4G technology. Google and Apple are both pushing it and it will slowly take over apps’ dominance.”
Cristelle Delaporte, digital marketing manager, Warehouse
“The loyalty we get is so strong that it’s worth updating. The app shopper goes on the blog much more often than the web shopper. We’ve added exclusive content to our app to reward her as a loyal customer.”
Serena Fortuna, ecommerce manager, Aquascutum
“We thought it was a better use of budget to design a responsive website.”
Simon Maylott, head of ecommerce, East
“It’s about serving different customer types in different ways. You’re not going to download if you’re not that loyal.”
Nickyl Raithatha, founder and chief executive, Finery
“I can see why you would use Asos and Amazon, but when a retailer has 200 products a season, how engaged can a consumer be to download it and use it regularly?”
Stephanie Villegas-Ross, online marketing manager, Reiss
“[Apps are] an opportunity to push convenience marketing and to give customers an amazing experience in terms of content stories. We can really engage and excite.”
Click here to read Drapers Multichannel Trends Report for free. All you need to do is register.