How are leading retailers securing cross-channel sales? Chloe Rigby focuses on examples of best practice
RETAILERS THAT ENABLE customers to shop wherever, whenever and however they want reap financial rewards. House of Fraser figures show that shoppers who buy from the company over mobile, in-store and online from the desktop site spend more than five times as much as those who only buy from the desktop site. John Lewis has said those who use three channels spend 3.5 times as much as those who use one.
Traders are adapting to shoppers for whom mobile is fast becoming a given, whether as a purchase or browsing device in its own right or as a bridge between store and online: some 58% of sales on Very.co.uk are made over smartphone or tablet. Retailers that succeed in boosting mobile and cross-channel sales are those that make shopping both easy and convenient. We take a look at 12 practical approaches, from the tried and tested to the cutting edge, that leading retailers take to mobile and multichannel.
1 – Help customers check it’s in stock
Argos’ [IRDX RARG] Check and Reserve app was one of the first mobile offerings when it was introduced in May 2010. Today it continues to play an important role in its customers’ lives. Shoppers use it to check whether the item they want to buy is in stock at a local store and then reserve it for collection. This simple function, developed in-house, has been one of the retailer’s fastest-growing sales channels: in the year to 1 March 2014, it alone accounted for 32% of total Argos sales.
Over the years it’s been updated: the Argos app now enables one-click reservation as well as purchase for delivery or, most recently, for fast-track store pick-up. Shoppers can personalise the app, so that it shows account information and product availability in a named store. Customers can save products they’re considering to a shortlist. The Argos app originally launched for iPhone, but today it’s also available for download for Android and iPad. Together, by the half-year to 30 August 2014, the suite of apps had been downloaded almost 10m times.
2 – Use mobile to give extra information in-store
House of Fraser [IRDX RHOF] focused with its latest app on giving customers extra information when they’re in-store. Shoppers can personalise the Android app, designed by Poq Studio [IRDX VPOQ] on its own platform, and save details such as preferred store and clothing size.
When customers are in a House of Fraser department store, they can put the app into ‘store mode’, which uses GPS to detect which shop they’re in and shows real-time stock availability in that particular store, in that particular size. Favourites can be saved for later. Barcode scanning functionality means shoppers can access extra product information such as product reviews and extra images. Other features include social sharing and a secure checkout. The app was launched in November 2014 and, says House of Fraser, “contributed to record mobile app traffic and sales during the Christmas period”. The retailer is also using beacon technology on mannequins in the store. Andy Harding [IRDX IAHA], executive director, multichannel, has said this is now becoming an accepted part of the customer journey.
3 – Get the most out of mobile-only features
Shop Direct [IRDX RSDG] made the most of the fact that mobile devices can take pictures when it added image recognition technology from Cortexica to its new Very.co.uk [IRDX RVER] transactional app. Shoppers use a smartphone or tablet computer to photograph clothes and footwear they like, and search for items that looks similar through Very.co.uk’s range of 13,000 clothing and footwear products.
The image search is based on research into the workings of the human visual cortex, designed to mimic the human perception of colour, texture and pattern – and shape, for shoes and bags. Shop Direct is now considering the next level of image recognition: analysing several items at once, so that shoppers could photograph someone in the street and search their entire outfit. The app also offers optimised search and browsing, giving shoppers more traditional ways to pinpoint the item they’re looking for quickly.
The launch of the iOS app comes at a time when mobile accounts for 58% of sales at Very.co.uk, and iOS accounts for more than 50% of traffic to its websites. An Android version is scheduled for launch in 2015.
4 – Enable on-the-go shopping
Over the years grocers have experimented with making online shopping easier for customers as they move around cities. Ocado [IRDX ROCA] and Tesco [IRDX RTSC] have both tested shopping by barcode, enabling shoppers to use smartphones to choose and pay for goods for later collection or home delivery. Today the focus is firmly another part of the shopping journey: taking delivery of the goods. Those fast-moving customers are out and about, by definition unlikely to be at home when deliveries are made, and most of the grocers, from Tesco to Sainsbury’s, now have grocery collection points in Transport for London stations.
In all, TfL trialled click and collect at 43 stations in 2014: in the year to November, some 12,000 orders were placed for collection. Retailer Amazon [IRDX RAMZ] has its own locker-based collection points, most notably in Birmingham International Airport; Argos opened its first digital store and collection point in an underground station at Cannon Street in November; and John Lewis [IRDX RJLW] has a click-and-commute shop at London St Pancras rail station. Scores of other retailers use lockerbanks operated by InPost and ByBox and others, and collection points from businesses, including Network Rail venture Doddle, CollectPlus, UPS Access Points and myHermes.
5 – Make delivery easier
Amazon uses its app to make deliveries easier. Customers who enable mobile alerts through the app, which can be downloaded on five devices including the Kindle Fire, receive push notifications alerting them when parcels are sent, and when they arrive. Alex Meisl of WiForia says the in-house developed service is both “exceptionally good” and of “scary quality”.
The app also enables order tracking, modification and cancellation – users can change the delivery destination en route, opting to send items to a neighbour or a safe place – and also wins praise for its mobile one-click confirmation of delivery address and payment. It bolsters enviable delivery capabilities that also include more than 16,000 pick-up locations for click and collect orders, including same-day collection through newsagents that are members of the Pass the Parcel network, Collect+ stores, Royal Mail branches and Amazon lockers.
The Amazon Logistics technology platform underpins seven-day delivery: Sunday deliveries, free to members of the retailer’s Amazon Prime subscription scheme, grew by more than four times in 2014. In New York, Amazon is raising the bar still further by enabling one-hour delivery to Prime members who order from a range of tens of thousands of items from a Prime Now mobile app.
6 – Use content to engage customers
Mothercare [IRDX RMOC] combines mobile and social to great effect in its range of apps, designed by NN4M. The retailer, which serves the parents of babies and young children, aims to develop a customer relationship through the app that goes beyond the transactional. The app enables shopping and barcode scanning in-store, but it goes well beyond the purely commercial with a range of features that includes week-by-week pregnancy updates, timers for kicks, contractions, naps or feeds, a collection of baby tunes, and a baby name finder – with the option to shake to generate a random name.
Mothercare TV, available from the app, hosts a range of advice videos, while app users can also receive special offers and find out about local store events. “Mobile has opened up that opportunity to create a great transaction and a great customer experience that gets people coming back to you,” said Mothercare’s mobile commerce manager Harpinder Singh, speaking at the Demandware 2014 customer conference. Mothercare engages too with its audience through social media, with a presence on six social networks, according to the IRUK 500 research. Its app features social media sharing, as do the product pages of its website.
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Formerly Executive Director, Multichannel, and Chief Customer Officer at House of Fraser