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A web of ideas

To launch its research on customer insight, Drapers invited key figures from across the fashion industry to a dinner at Liberty in London to discuss the findings.

To kick off the discussion exploring Drapers’ customer insight research, we asked the diners what they were hoping to get out of the evening.

Dan Rubel, Very: “I’m interested in what the latest thoughts are on social media.”
Richard Robinson, Google: “I’d like to learn more about the relationship between online and bricks-and-mortar.”
Rob Jones, Harvey Nichols: “I want to find out more about what information the customer is willing to share.”
Kevin McSpadden, More2: “I’d like to know why more people don’t take data more seriously and make money from it.”
Sue Macmillan, Hobbs: “That’s because fashion hasn’t been at the forefront of data capture, but customer expectation of what we know about them is rising and we have to balance that with privacy.”
Catherine Daly, Hackett: “I agree. Hackett’s site is so backwards, with data stored in about 15 different places. But it’s unreal what data can do for your marketing activity. It allows you to focus on your key customers, rather than those that just won’t convert.”
Nick Fox, World Design & Trade:“My background is in logistics, where we generally have massive amounts of data. I want to know what we should be doing with it all.”

Drapers: So what do you already know about your customers, and what more would you like to know about them?
RJ: “We do have a single customer view [single record for customer’s transactions across different channels] and record the names and postcodes of our customers but we’re not using this as effectively as possible. For example, how many customers in store would like to shop online? If you’re shopping all day, how about we store your items and deliver them to you?”
KM: “In fashion, while customers are happy to buy online, most people only buy in one channel with one brand. For example, about 80% of people you capture in store, you will end up driving back in store. So, should you allow customers to order online and fulfil the order in store? Yes. Because you have an opportunity to sell to them again.”
RJ: “In fact, these are the customers that have a higher propensity to spend more. Because we have a restaurant, for example, they’ll come in [to pick up their purchase], stay for lunch, and buy more.”
Roy Patrick, Torex: “But how many retailers can give hard data on this? Do we know how valuable this is?”
RJ: “We need better systems in store to support tracking. We have data but we’re not sure if we’re using it effectively.”
SM: “We need to understand why [customers would want click and collect]. Is it because delivery methods haven’t kept pace? Or because it’s free or convenient?”
Georgina Palmer, Joy: “You know you can hand it back if you don’t like it, so it eliminates returns.”
CD: “Actually, there’s always a bit of a weird relationship between store and online staff. It doesn’t matter where sales come from [for the business] but store staff have targets, so when [online] returns come in, it affects them.”
RJ: “We do store fulfilment so we give the sales to the store staff to contribute to their targets and bonuses. John Lewis goes a step further and credits the sale to the local branch closest to where the customer lives.”
SM: “You have to remember they’re not your customer, they’re the market’s customer. John Lewis and M&S absolutely understand the service element and have raised the bar.”

Drapers: According to our research, loyalty cards are the best way of encouraging consumers to shop with a particular retailer or brand.
NF: “Marketing would almost suggest you shouldn’t have one; you tend to associate it with Tesco, which would be detrimental to a brand like Firetrap. Our customers think: ‘My dad has a loyalty card.’ We need to think differently. There’s a club in Barcelona where you need a chip put in your arm to get in.”
RR: “It’s about personalisation. A loyalty card is an old-fashioned term. Maybe it’s a chip, maybe it’s a [barcode] on your smart phone.”
Sandrine Deveraux, Matches: “We looked at the purchasing behaviour of our customers [to find a link] between the brands and the sizes they were buying. Being able to offer personalisation is amazing, but you need the systems behind that.”
CD: “We need to be better at telling our customers why we need this information, too. I bought a very expensive camera from Jessops, but it broke within the guarantee period. I’d lost my receipt, but from my name and postcode they were able to print my receipt again and exchange. The average consumer doesn’t get that yet.”
Angela Spindler, The Original Factory Shop: “I think the old-fashioned way is the most useful and practical, where you get your customers in a room to find out what they want. And isn’t it more important to find out more about those who don’t shop with you?”
CD: “When I was at Asos we did some research and found there were a lot of people who liked the brand but weren’t shopping with us. So we launched a Facebook page and updated our status to say: ‘You’ve never shopped with us’ and added a ‘Guilty’ tab. They’re the ones that will tell you the truth. With
their replies, we found out things such as they didn’t like the site layout, they couldn’t find what they were looking
for or we weren’t competitive enough. So we came up with ideas like free returns, and put different currencies icons on the page.”
SD: “We trialled free delivery at Matches, but our customers weren’t interested. They’re more concerned about getting their purchase in two, three or four hours’ time.”
RJ: “Free shipping and returns will be standard in the UK like it is in the US.”
KM: “But the higher the order value, the higher the returns rate when deliveries are free. It’s hard to make it commercial. People are doing it because everyone else is.”
RJ: “The answer is to let customers know more about the product available. For example, it’s in a size 12 but it tends to be a bit on the large side. We might actively encourage shoppers to buy two sizes because it’s best to send one item back but make a sale from the other. And if they’re buying two sizes and send one back, record that and target them next time with the right size.”
Rob Feldmann, BrandAlley: “But that only works if you have a lot of stock. Having said that, we used to get an 18% returns rate on Marc by Marc Jacobs shoes, but then we explained how the shoes fit to the customer, cutting it to 10%. Some 75% of returns are about size.”
Harriet Williams, Debenhams: “This is where customer reviews offer the opportunity to give customers the details. Boden does it very well.”

Drapers: Can you suggest any points of discussion for future round tables?
AS: “Going back to deliveries, they tend to be between 8am and 8pm, and you have to sign for it. It’s not convenient.”
RJ: “But it’s essential we get a signature as we’re selling very high-price products. And we’ve started to only accept the same delivery address as the billing address to reduce fraud. What about the idea of collection points?
HW: “That depends on how much the customer trusts that collection partner.”
RR: “This might sound a bit radical, but maybe the Post Office could do this.”
AS: “Out-of-hours deliveries is what will crack it.”
CD: “The supermarkets could provide us with the expertise. Education about online is so important to the fashion industry. Your web store should be your biggest store; it should be easy to do.” l

The guests

Catherine Daly Online marketing manager, Hackett

Angela Spindler Chief executive, The Original Factory Shop

Harriet Williams Customer insight director, Debenhams

Dan Rubel Brand director, Very

Nick Fox Logistics and operations director, WDT

Rob Jones Ecommerce manager, Harvey Nichols

Robert Feldmann Chief executive, BrandAlley

Sandrine Deveaux Fashion marketing and ecommerce manager, Matches

Sue Macmillan Head of ecommerce, Hobbs

Richard Robinson Head of business markets, Google

Kevin McSpadden Managing director, More2

Roy Patrick Product manager, Torex

Georgina Palmer Ecommerce marketing manager, Joy

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