OF THE ‘six pillars’ Mothercare’s CEO, Mark Newton-Jones, uses to define the company’s global strategy, the first is “Become a digitally led business”. With 40% of sales now online, of which 80% are via mobile, that aim is clearly well on the way to being fulfilled.
As Newton-Jones put it in the company’s latest annual report, “Our target customers are digitally-enabled millennials who use their mobile devices whilst out and about to browse merchandise, review content, read reviews and purchase product.”
Those millennials are also a main concern for brand and marketing director Gary Kibble. “The millennial customer wants to access content in a bitesize way and be able to interact through multiple devices at different times of the day,” he told us last year. In its interim report last November, Newton-Jones said the Mothercare app had been downloaded one million times and there were more than 3m customers on its database.
Given the company’s target market and inevitable churn, customers have a short time to accrue lifetime value. By the time children start school, Mothercare is no longer a key go-to destination, so it must aim to satisfy its customers’ needs and wants in a comparatively short time. Its website provides ‘wish list’ and ‘gift list’ functions that can be accessed by friends and family. There is the ‘My Mothercare club’ with various discounts and events, as well as a series of 224 emails that are triggered by the different stages of pregnancy and birth. These include weekly personalised pregnancy messages, ensuring that the company becomes a key source of information and advice as soon as a woman becomes a potential customer.
There are also in-store evenings for expectant parents, while stores invite groups of new mothers to special post-birth gatherings. All this emphasises the idea that shoppers have joined a select group. As its online page header declares, “Welcome to the club.”
The website includes extensive advice sections, from problems with conception to toilet training. The sense of being in a club extends to customer reviews and an ‘Ask an owner’ function, where shoppers can post queries to be answered by fellow parents. The app offers a complete product catalogue and store finder, help with choosing baby names, ‘baby tunes’ to play to restless offspring and a storage facility for electronic receipts, which can also be scanned in-store when returning items. Everything, if fact, that the digitally savvy millennial customer would expect.
That focus on digitally enabled millennials is paying off. Mothercare now has an online presence in 14 markets, iPads are used in-store, there is a new responsive website and – more importantly – both margins and like-for-like sales have been up in the past two years, after five years of decline.