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INTERVIEW How Hobbycraft has prepared for Black Friday trading

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Jennifer North, head of digital experience at Hobbycraft, took time out from her Black Friday preparations yesterday to speak to InternetRetailing on how the craft retailer, ranked Top100 in IRUK Top500 research, has prepared for what it expects to be its biggest day of the year online

The run up to Black Friday has felt like a “waiting game” for Hobbycraft’s Jennifer North but now that it’s here she’s expecting the biggest online sales day of the retailer’s year.

Last year Black Friday week was the first time the craft retailer, ranked Top100 in IRUK Top500 research, had turned over more than £1m in a week online. But that record is set to be beaten this year – even though its offers have now been online and available since November 20. 

“We still think this Friday will be our biggest day even though we’ve been out in the market for 10 days, which is our longest exposure of offers ever,” says North, who is Hobbycraft’s head of digital experience. “But that’s more been driven by the dates and the way payday sits.” Because of those factors it has felt, she says, “like a waiting game”. 

How shoppers are buying

Hobbycraft started its peak trading campaign with its biggest email send ever – rewarded by the biggest volume of email opened on day one. “For our engaged customers by going early we had that peak and then we’ve been operating a comfortable increase on the year every day which we’re obviously very happy with,” she says. Sales began to build up from this Wednesday. “We still think on Friday it’s payday, the offers are out there on the market. Customers have nothing left to wait for then.”

This year, Hobbycraft has seen a real shift in traffic towards mobile, which chimes with predictions for the day. As of yesterday, traffic was running at about 70% on mobile, with 55% of revenue from mobile transactions. “That’s a big leap on the year – it’s probably 15 percentage points up on the year in revenue. We’ve found this year has been our mobile game changer year. I think it’s been different for different retailers depending on their audience and proposition. This year has been the year of the mobile for us, on that absolute tipping point. It’s grown steadily but ahead of its previous run rate this year for us.”

The mobile effect started to be seen in the first half of the year, says North. She believes it has come about as a result of changing customer behaviour, both within the craft market and more generally, and through the retailer’s move to target mobile customers with paid search. The effect on metrics has been noticeable.  “You get more visits per conversion on a mobile – we’ve had to go back to basics on metrics, and say what is the right way of measuring. You get a lot more visits to a conversion on mobile. Your conversion alone is going to look negative but your absolute volumes are really healthy. We just have to make sure we’re looking in the round at all the metrics.”

The role of the store

While most of Hobbycraft’s online sales are now via mobile, the majority of sales still take place in the store. Of the sales that have resulted from its email campaigns, 80 to 85% of sales have been made in-store, and about 15% online. “It’s a very multichannel experience for customers,” says North. “If you live near a Hobbycraft store you’re highly likely to go there rather than buy online because you like to go there, it’s an excursion. For customers, crafting is a passion and an escape and going into a Hobbycraft store is considered a worthwhile investment of time. If you’re near a store you’re often happy to go there because you know you’ll see something unexpected and you’ll top up your basket. Customers tend to spend up to a threshold – because there’s lots of low value items. They’ll tend to get to around their Hobbycraft threshold and they know they can do that in store and that’s what we also look to replicate online with the product discovery experience.”

In store, customers can also take part in Hobbycraft’s regular Saturday making workshops, which have been Christmas-themed since about September. 

Preparing for Black Friday

After a successful Black Friday week last year, Hobbycraft has aimed to build on that result. “It was probably bigger than we expected last year and this year we’ve planned for something bigger,” says North. “We’ve been really joined up, we’ve planned for every single area that has an accountability, that relates to delivering the end to end service, all the way through to identifying the right products, setting up the right deals, the right website experience, right in-store experience.

“Probably a week out from the campaign we started the routine of the daily call. We have our checklists, our KPIs and we look at them every day and we’ve got the flexibility to change things. We might make a change on stock, on our delivery proposition. We just maintain flexibility, we have the right accountable people talking every day. That gets better every year as the event matures, we mature with it and we’re comfortable with how it’s working right now.”

The retailer’s also learned from the data, delivered via Contentsquare analytics tools so that it knows what it is doing that is having an effect on conversion. “All the team has their own dashboards so they can look at their measures and it can translate really nicely as we go into peak time,” says North. “For us, looking at the paid interactions and also at the traffic vs conversion and that’s helped us understand if we’ve got something that’s not performing as expected, is it because of awareness and traffic or is it because of the proposition. We’ve been able to make decisions day by day. If we’re not good on exposure we change the online experience. If we’re not quite converting we’ve made a few price actions or we might say well let’s wait until after Friday and that might influence the offers we put out after Black Friday.” 

She added: “All the segments are useful for us, we have tonnes of segments set up in Contentsquare – customers that have or haven’t visited a page, customers that have used search. There are so many infinite segments and they help us drill in really fast to  what we already know about our customer and help us understand if things are different.”

North is preparing for higher Hobbycraft sales today, compared to last year – but does she think it will be a big Black Friday more widely?

“It feels like a waiting game,” she says. “But I think there are some really big offers out there. I think Asos have gone to up to 70% – which is huge. We’re monitoring closely every day. It’s a great time to get shopping done. Deals feel as strong as ever. If there is a sense that people are tightening their belts this Christmas more than ever, I think ultimately everyone still has to be investing in Christmas gifts – so I don’t think it’s going to be smaller.”

Image courtesy of Hobbycraft

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