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Retail Review – Reeta McGinn, Associate Director, Javelin Group – Score 23/25 (IRM52)

With the £100m plus investment over three years into data, ecommerce, personalisation and IT already underway, it’s clear Very Exclusive’s owners Shop Direct are putting their all into their vision to becoming a world-class digital retailer.

The Groups latest offering pureplay retailer Very Exclusive, the “start up with a trust fund” as described by Managing Director Sarah Curran, is wasting no time in putting some of this investment to work. Bursting onto the web to coincide with the launch of London Fashion Week, the brand has been making the most of Shop Direct’s digital technology within its online store.

Very Exclusive has been interacting with prospects and customers heavily through online PR and social media, featuring on leading online magazines and engaging leading Bloggers and Vloggers to raise awareness of its high end fashion edit and by posting a wide variety of rich content throughout all the usual social channels its customers consume. To this end, the group has invested heavily in product and editorial content, and through its partnership with CLX Europe has developed a digital asset management platform to help achieve greater automation and speed to market – creating a “world class digital publishing” capability, something which is absolutely critical for retailers in today’s age of omnichannel content and commerce.

This month, sister brand launched what it claims to be a “world first” in personalisation: the ability to serve 1.2m versions of its homepage to customers, as well as personalised navigation bars which reflect browsing habits. The site uses past browsing history to create a relevant and timely experience for individual shoppers. Very hopes to increase this to 3.5 million by the end of 2015, just one of the initiatives which it expects to add £20m of sales. It’s only a matter of time before we start to see this new initiative roll out across the other brands and drive significant competitive advantage. Personalisation however, is nothing new to the brand; it was one of the first and flagship clients of web personalisation firm Qubit (a start-up founded in 2010 by four ex-Googlers) but now we are seeing them taking the next leap.

The group as a whole has a history of trailing emergent digital technologies on their online stores, and for the past few years have been working closely with a range of Israeli tech start-ups from the booming “Silicon Wadi” regularly visiting the area to “speed-date” with firms to find the best innovations. Their partnership with Cimagine, has led to the implementation of augmented reality technology, in which customers can visualise furniture at home, while a link up with virtual sizing technology firm yRuler makes it easier for customers to understand if their electronic devices will fit into handbags. An early mover, spotted the huge opportunity in retargeting back in 2011, when it partnered with MyThings an initiative which added a very impressive £30m worth of sales.

All of these investment and initiatives are just the tip of the iceberg, and there will be exciting times ahead as the group continues to invest in creating highly personalised customer experiences across its brands.

‘Store’ refers to digital storefront as well as physical stores with the resulting score relating to the massive use of technology and technology investments supporting the brand.

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