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Debenhams: reaching the mobile customer

It was only in April this year that the Debenhams website was judged by digital performance intelligence company Catchpoint to be slow, too old-fashioned, and featuring way too many items per page. Since then, the department store has wasted no time in redeveloping its offering in an attempt to catch up with customer expectations and reinvent itself as a customer-led business of the digital age.

In October, it launched its new mobile site, based around progressive web app technology which provides a streamlined, app-like shopping experience without the need to download an app, allowing customers to browse twice as fast as before. “We know customers get frustrated by a slow site, even more so on mobile, with as many as 70% admitting they would leave a site if it loaded slowly,” said Ross Clemmow, Managing Director of Retail, Digital, Food & Events. “The new site will transform our customer’s experience of shopping with Debenhams on their mobiles.”

The development is part of the ongoing ‘Debenhams Redesigned’ strategy, which aims to reinvent the department store as a multichannel retailer fit for the 21st century, with mobile at its heart. The retailer’s latest annual report showed sales of £2.3bn to September 2017, 1.1% up on last year. Pre-tax profits were £95.2m before one-off costs. However, costs of £36.2m related to the strategic review meant that after costs, profits were down 42% on the previous year. Digital sales, however, were up 12.7%, with mobile accounting for 55% of online orders.

Other changes introduced as a result of the strategy have been determinedly customer-focused: 2,000 staff have been moved into customer-facing roles in stores, with a new mission to make shopping “confidence boosting, sociable and fun”. Customer service measures are now part of performance indicators and already, the company says it is seeing “significant progress in net promoter scores”.

Other plans afoot include building a new ‘in-home’ sales channel through its Beauty Club customer base, which it sees as an opportunity to build an even closer relationship with customers. It is also trialling a new customer shopping experience through two new stores that are acting as test labs for new ideas. Those ideas include choosing in-store stock in line with online demand in the catchment area. This has worked particularly well, it says, in its womenswear and home departments. New approaches to layout and merchandising are also being tested

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