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IRC 2015: Top retailers reveal their tips to boost online conversion

Great images, a seamless cross-device experience, fast sites and easily-navigable apps are essential ways to boost online conversion, according to directors at John Lewis, House of Fraser and River Island.

Mark Felix, director of online trade at John Lewis, told the Internet Retailing Conference in London that great imagery and video are vital to emotionally engage shoppers online.

He warned: “If your site doesn’t give brilliant imagery the customer will leave and buy in store or go to a competitor online where they can see it better.”

He added it was crucial that retailers know exactly how shoppers are using their websites, how they are coming to the site and which pages they are entering, exiting and lingering on so they know which pages to prioritise. “Once you understand how your shoppers shop, you can play to your strengths,” he said.

It is also important to help shoppers move seamlessly between the different channels as they want, and he cited the department store retailer’s wish list as an example of this. The wish list can be used to add chosen products by scanning tags in store or clicking on links in the app or on the website. Once compiled, the list then follows the customer journey across all channels. He added boards and tags displayed in stores encouraging shoppers to scan to get more information on products help both the customer to get more details and reviews, but also indicate to the retailer where customers could need more help and advice from information boards or staff.

Sarah Baillie, head of multichannel business development at rival House of Fraser, talked delegates through the transformation the department store retailer has been on over the last 18 months to become a more digitally-led business, which included creating a centralised customer insights team that was better aligned to the customer funnel rather than specific channels. She said this change had enabled the team to better predict trends and react more quickly to changes as decisions were now taken based directly on customer insights.

“There’s been a huge mind shift in the business to become more agile,” she said, which included embracing the fail fast, learn fast mentality whereby the retailer is able to trial new ideas on small scales and learn from them.

New innovations at the brand included offering digital windows at the Oxford Street flagship during London Fashion Week where the Ariella window was shoppable 24/7 and customers could interact by using their phones to scan boards in the window to get more information or link to product pages. Last month, a trial digital version of the home brochure was also launched enabling shoppers to scan pages to see 3D images, videos and download recipes.

Meanwhile Helen Colclough, ecommerce development manager at River Island, noted that she is seeing in-app purchasing taking off as many consumers now view it as a faster way to browse and checkout. “It’s a really specialist channel that people are driving towards. It’s an interesting area for customer behaviour.” She also highlighted website speed as a crucial area for focus, as customers will abandon frustratingly slow platforms.

However, Schuh’s head of ecommerce and customer services Sean McKee, said although the retailer does have an app, they are not a necessity for all retailers, and for the footwear retailer this was the case due to its predominantly single category offering. “There’s plenty of evidence to say apps don’t work for all retailers,” he said.

He added a key focus for the footwear retailer is to be able to identify true frictions with conversion, and to separate these out from those shoppers that are using online to plan their shop visit so are not intending to purchase online.

Andrew Towers, head of mobile at Ebay, concluded by saying that the online platform’s big focus now is on finding a way to refine its search results and help its shoppers to make easier decisions about the products they are looking for from the huge number of items available.

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