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Debenhams vision of mobile unifying the retail experience not starting well

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Aside from store closures, department store giant Debenhams has unveiled a turnaround strategy for its retail business, based around mobile – but there is a lot of work to do if its current site is anything to go by.

While the headlines focused on the store closure review, chief executive Sergio Bucher set out a positive future for the business as “a destination for social shopping, with mobile the unifying platform for interacting with our customers.”

This makes total sense as consumer behaviour is shifting dramatically towards these channels, however the foundations for Debenhams to build this new future for the business on mobile appear shaky and need serious attention. This is according to the latest analysis by digital performance intelligence company Catchpoint of how shoppers currently experience Debenhams’ mobile site.

The analysis of the mobile site over the last two days reveals erratic performance. The main issue is the mobile version of the Debenhams home page contains too many items – around 250 – and many of them are up to 3MBs in size (primarily images which can be optimized). This means the site takes longer to download onto a mobile than the sites of competitors like House of Fraser, John Lewis and Next. On many times over this two day period, a mobile shopper visiting the Debenhams site would have had to download almost three times as many megabytes of data (8-10MBs) than the sites of these competitors, which consistently required mobile visitors to download the same relatively low amount of data (3-4MB).

Robert Castley, Principal Engineer, Catchpoint explains: “Smartphones are dominating online retail and can be a powerful element in an omnichannel strategy to drive customers into bricks and mortar stores. But it is striking how Debenhams seems to have not optimised their mobile site at all as it is exactly the same size as their desktop site which is heavy and is not doing well against the performance of their competitors’ mobile sites! The customer is required to download so many bytes of data that has a detrimental impact on performance. Let’s hope with this announcement Debenhams makes the investments they need to overhaul their mobile strategy in which continuous monitoring and analysis of the digital experience is going to be crucial if they are to truly unify how customers interact with them.”

According to Catchpoint’s latest UK Ecommerce Benchmark report, which looked into the online performance of 52 major UK retailers, Debenhams has one of the worst performing desktop pages. For the reporting period November 2016 – January 2017, which includes major shopping events such as Black Friday, Cyber Monday and Boxing Day, Debenhams’ homepage took 5.6 seconds to fully load so that a customer can start shopping, which is significantly longer than the industry standard of between 3-4 seconds.

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