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IRC 2014 INTERVIEW Andy Harding of House of Fraser on refoundationing through mobile retail

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Ahead of this year’s Internet Retailing Conference (IRC 2014), we’re running a series of interviews in which we hear from some of the industry leaders taking part in this year’s event. Today we talk to Andy Harding, executive director, multichannel at House of Fraser about the key role mobile now plays in the retailer’s business.

Internet Retailing: IRC 2014 is all about refoundationing, the process by which retailers establish new baselines from which to build for the future. That’s something House of Fraser seems to have done around mobile, having started to design for mobile-first more than a year ago. What is the importance of mobile to the House of Fraser strategy?

Andy Harding, executive director, multichannel, House of Fraser: There’s been a transition in our business as mobile has become ubiquitous. Because we adapted early to mobile we now have an advantage. Mobile is now the single biggest channel that our customers use and that makes it mandatory to consider mobile, and make sure that each channel can be used in a way that’s contextually relevant to the customer journey. The most important thing is that you don’t just bring everything together for the sake of it into one user experience. You need to be consistent between your channels but still leverage the value that each channel has in the customer journey. If you’re using mobile in store, that experience should use functions that add value to the context that the shopper is in. Equally the tablet experience is similar but slightly adjusted and different. The desktop works in a different context again.

Internet Retailing: How is mobile now developing in your business?

Andy Harding: Mobile has continued to grow. Whereas before it was a question of traffic volumes being more than 50%, we’re now at the point where sales are at that stage as well. I think that’s as big a milestone as it was when the traffic moved over the threshold. It doesn’t necessarily mean it will change anything so much – we just know it very much focuses our minds on designing for mobile.

Internet Retailing: How are customers now starting to use mobile in different ways?

Andy Harding: The time of day and context in which people use mobile is quite different. You can see that in store, where scanning and beaconing are now becoming part of the customer journey for many customers. We’re trying to do as much as we can in that space.

Internet Retailing: Have you found the adjustment to designing for mobile first a big change?

Andy Harding: We have a really strong UX design team and designing from a mobile phone perspective is only about changing the way we design a project. It’s just a different methodology in the way we design and requires people to think slightly differently.

Internet Retailing: Do you feel you’re on a path that others will follow?

Andy Harding: We saw that mobile traffic would overtake non-mobile traffic before it happened and we accelerated the process by which it happened. As a result, we were ahead in terms of designing for mobile first, and we’ve continued that strategy from a marketing perspective and across our different disciplines. The trend is continuing across the industry but I’m not sure other people are quite there yet.

Internet Retailing: What are you looking forward to at IRC beyond your own presentation?

Andy Harding: I always like hearing about innovations and new things that really add colour and texture. The direction of travel is something of an unknown in terms of customer experience, expectations and capabilities. But it can be, and often is, influenced quite heavily by people doing interesting things with devices and interfaces. Some gain traction and become part of the fabric of how consumers shop. I’m always interested to some of the interesting things people are doing with innovation and technology. “Follow, adapt or ignore?” is the question we always ask when we see cool stuff. At IRC 2014, I’ll be talking about the new Apple launches, including iOS8, and I’ll be interested to hear what other people have to say.

Andy Harding is a keynote speaker at IRC 2014, which takes Refoundationing as its key theme. His presentation will be at 10.10 in the opening keynote session of the event, which takes place on October 14 at the Novotel, Hammersmith, London.

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