A substantial 18.7% growth in ecommerce sales helped Moss Bros’ most recent overall sales for the 15 weeks to 11 May remain buoyant. Drapers spoke to head of ecommerce Matthew Henton to find out how he is going to sustain the growth driving Moss Bros’ balance sheet.
What fuelled the online sales growth that we saw in this year’s results?
Ecommerce was a pretty small proportion of our sales when I started, around 8%, and has since grown substantially, now accounting for 15.5%.
The main focus has been a fairly relentless focus on the digital user experience. We’ve been really looking at some of the reasons why guys might be put off from buying suits online. This involves providing a lot more information about fit and sizing.
At the heart of what we wanted to do online was to try and match the store experience, because that’s precisely what makes us stand out on the high street from other formalwear retailers – that our store colleagues are genuine suit experts. We wanted to bring that expertise and heritage online and not just be a list of pages of suit after suit.
Another substantial shift during my time here has been the one from desktop to mobile. We had a rather poor separate mobile site when I started, which caused a lot of problems in running two different retail sites. One of the first things I implemented was the switch across to a fully responsive site that could deliver a fully consistent user experience no matter what device you were using.
What are the distinct ecommerce challenges that tailoring brands face?
Frequency of purchase is a big challenge. Items that we buy every day are easy to shop for online because we know what it is that we like and we know what we’re going to get. For suiting, in particular, the infrequency of purchase means a lot of guys are maybe not sure about what style to go for or what’s in at the moment, because it’s been five years since they last bought a new suit.
Lots of purchases are occasion led, for weddings or proms, and part of the ceremony of planning the occasion is going and sorting that purchase.
How have you tackled these challenges?
The key is providing style guidance and showing guys different ways in which they can wear their suits. We have a separate area of the site called The Inside Pocket, which is an editorial section offering style advice, tips and guidance.
It’s a mix of current seasonal trends, but also more evergreen tailoring advice that is going to be the same in five years’ time as it is today. However, we don’t just leave that as a separate editorial part of the site. We bring that content into the more commercial areas of the site – category pages and product list pages. So, as you browse through, for example, three-piece suits, we introduce content on how to wear a waistcoat in different ways.
How are you sustaining online growth?
Fit and sizing is what we’re working on at the moment. There will always be returns due to sizing when it comes to an infrequent purchase so the first thing to focus on is making the process for somebody to change the size as soon as possible easy. We’ve got a pretty slick exchange process now, which makes it easy to get that size right the second time.
Building on this we are also introducing customisation online for the first time through our Tailor Me product. It’s a made-to-measure suit option with the ability to completely customise the suit – this has done really well in-store. It’s a big growth area for us and we’re taking it online later this year.
We’re also working with a company called Dynamic Yield, which is a testing and personalisation platform. We use that to tailor the online experience for users based on what they’ve bought before, but also on what they’ve browsed and shown affinity to previously.
It takes into account things like whether they are more sale focused – and then we’re able to tailor their user experience. It’s important to make sure the data we have is actionable, in order to take the single customer view.