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Coast focuses on delivery and data

Coast is joining up the in-store and online experience and exploring new methods of delivery to win back customers’ trust.

Womenswear retailer Coast fell into administration last October, and its concessions, franchise stores and online business were bought by Karen Millen. The brands’ head of digital, Emma Bonar, tells Drapers how Coast is changing its approach to delivery and making better use of data to draw back customers who had lost faith in the brand.

“Coast has been going through tough times and has lost a lot of trust from its customers”, Bonar says. “So, visibility, up-front communication and being as open as possible is key for the business.

“Stock visibility has been very high up on the agenda since 2009, when we wanted to offer customers the opportunity to reserve store stock and go and try it on in store and pay for it there. It had a lot of take-up, but the cancellation rate was huge – about 90%. This gave us an insight into how customers wanted to use click and collect, which was helpful as we wanted to utilise store and warehouse stock.”

Bonar added that introducing click and collect in 2017 reduced the cancellation rate: “A lot of it is about communication, giving the customer messages at the right time and reminding in the right way using text.”

As well as click-and-collect collection points, Coast is also looking into using stores as a delivery hub and increasing the use of shipping from store.

“Shipping from store is great for the businesses because it increases visibility, but the proposition is not as good because we cannot do next day delivery,” Bonar says. “We want to be in a situation where we can be more intelligent about the stock we use to fulfil orders.

“We want to be sustainable in our approach to reduce the number of miles product has to travel. If someone selects standard delivery, then shipping from store makes more sense than sending from the warehouse.”

Bonar adds that Karen Millen and Coast are in the early planning stages of “consolidated delivery”: “If you know customers have ordered from both retailers, or other retailers too, then why not stick them in the same van?”

However, Bonar said it is too early to give further guidance on their consolidate delivery plans at this stage. 

Bringing it together

The brands are seeking to launch with multichannel specialist More2, to tie up customer data with online data and provide a more personalised experience.

Bonar says: “We have been looking at solutions for doing more targeted recommendations and personalising the customer journey. With this technology we’ll now know what the customer has bought in store and online. So, it will be much easier for us to know what’s in her wardrobe to offer accessory suggestions. This has been a big gap in the business up until this point.”

Coast and Karen Millen are also looking at returns solutions to make the process easier for customers. They are planning to launch returns portals to submit returns faster and give visibility about what products will be coming back to the warehouse and stores.  This will allow the brands to manage the cost of returns and provide refunds straight away.

Bonar explains they have introduced in-store tablets that allow staff to build outfit suggestions for customers, and adds: “What I want to do next is take those recommendations and put them online, so people can see them outside of the store.”



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