The 2018 retail peak is nearly upon us, and mobile will be playing a more important role than ever.
With retail’s busiest time of year approaching, the focus is inevitably turning into making the most out of the busiest channel: mobile.
On 19 September at London’s Haymarket Hotel, executives from retailers including Ted Baker, Jack Wills, AllSaints and River Island gathered for Drapers’ Planning for Peak roundtable, sponsored by app specialist Poq, to discuss how they are approaching the “Golden Quarter” and what role mobile will play.
Christmas trading has changed dramatically in recent years as Black Friday – the Friday after Thanksgiving – has made its way across the Atlantic to the UK. Retail’s most frenetic period is no longer the week before Christmas but the end of November, as shoppers rush to grab gifts at reduced prices.
“We have to be in there,” says Hackett online trading manager Anna Biscay. “We see a lot of people do their Christmas shopping during that period, and if we don’t take part, we miss the trade and they’ll go to another brand.”
AllSaints digital project manager for technology Jonathan Harris-French agrees: “We’re fighting for a share of people’s pocket.”
Black Friday is no longer about a day of discounting. Over the past two years, the event has become a drawn-out affair, and some retailers run up to a fortnight of Black Friday deals.
Jack Wills global trading manager Lynsey Munn says it is important to launch as early as possible to the make the most of a strong Black Friday offer. However, with this year’s Black Friday falling on 23 November – before many shoppers are paid for the month – some retailers may opt to draw the discounting event out later.
The retailers in the room are now fully immersed in peak preparations. Harris-French says AllSaints is busy load-testing its website to make sure it can take the increased traffic, and Munn says she is currently “getting really granular” on Jack Wills’ daily Black Friday plans.
“We want to be more granular for the customer. Rather than having lots of things going on, how we can make it more specific and more user-friendly?” she asks.
Meanwhile, fashion accessories retailer Skinnydip London has launched a raft of new initiatives in the run-up to peak.
“We’ve launched an affiliate programme, paid search, click-and-collect, all within a month of each other,” says digital marketing manager Laurina Kennedy. “For me, it’s ensuring they’re all streamlined and optimised, and our customers know that they have these additional options to try to drive as much traffic to the website as possible during peak.”
People are more prone to impulse shopping [during Black Friday] as they’ve waited for it
Charlotte Keating, Hackett
The role of mobile
Over the past few years, Black Friday has been more of an online event than one for the high street, as shoppers opt to bargain hunt from the comfort of their sofa or while at work.
This makes mobile, which makes up the bulk of most retailers’ traffic, vitally important. Munn says mobile is “phenomenal” during Black Friday.
Jack Wills’ aim is to get shoppers visiting its mobile site daily during the period to see what deals are on offer, she says: “We want to build a sense of urgency without overwhelming the customer.”
Keating says Hackett experiences a big jump in mobile conversion rates over Black Friday: “During the rest of the year it’s more of a considered purchase, but people are more prone to impulse shopping [during Black Friday] as they’ve waited for it.”
Poq chief operating officer Michael Langguth say apps can play a vital tool for shoppers during Black Friday and says its client, US department store group Belk, has noticed a “step change” in app downloads around the discounting event.
He says: “You can create a wish-list without logging in. When Black Friday comes they have that list and they buy, buy, buy. It’s a tool to be faster.”
Any interns that come through our door say: ‘I don’t shop unless they have an app’
Laurina Kennedy, Skinnydip London
Do you need an app?
Apps were a hot topic around the table, and many retailers in the room are in the process of creating their own.
Kennedy says Skinnydip’s 16-to-24-year old demographic now expects an app: “Any interns that come through our door say: ‘I don’t shop unless they have an app’. They’re our demographic so we should be listening to them.”
Skinnydip head of ecommerce Meghan Lewis adds that it will focus on making its app about more than just ecommerce: “It’s not all about shopping. We’re building in content so there’s a secondary reason for people to keep the app.”
Skinnydip aims to have a constant stream of new content on the app to ensure users regularly use it. This will include quirky features such as tongue-in-cheek horoscopes.
Poq sales director James Springham says an app is a good way to share the content a brand produces: “A lot of content gets lost and doesn’t get seen by customers. An app is a better way of delivering that content than Instagram.”
AllSaints is also in the midst of creating its own app following the success of a version it made for store staff.
Harris-French says: “We’ve gone through a turbulent time with trade, so we wanted to innovate to make the stores as profitable as possible. We’re now doing it as a customer-facing app. We’re trying to share those features across stores and customers.
One of the reasons AllSaints is developing the customer app is to recognise its loyal shoppers. This rings true for many retailers in the room. Jack Wills assistant online content manager Sammy Waddell says it ditched its app a year ago, but may consider a new version in the future that integrates a loyalty scheme.
Meanwhile, Biscay says Hackett has discussed creating an app for its loyalty club. She says using the app in store could gift it with lots of valuable customer data.
“We could gather suit measurements into an app and make it easy for the customer,” she says.
For Langguth, apps are for “strengthening your brand”: “It’s about your most loyal customers having this channel, which is the most premium channel you can have on your mobile phone.”
He says shoppers notice when your mobile experience is not up to scratch, and compare it with the experience they have on regularly used apps such as Instagram.
“Giving people a great experience drives loyalty and [keeps] people coming back. You see a huge uplift in terms of retention, in terms of people buying more and buying higher ticket items,” he says.
App or no app, mobile is set to be pivotal this peak, and the retailers that give shoppers an engaging and easy-to-use experience on this device will see the tills ringing in the lead-up his Christmas.
Anna Biscay Online trading manager, Hackett
Sophie Green Communications manager, Brand Alley
Jonathan Harris-French Digital project manager, AllSaints
Charlotte Keating Digital marketing manager, Hackett
Laurina Kennedy Digital marketing manager, Skinnydip London
Michael Langguth Chief operating officer, Poq
Meghan Lewis Head of ecommerce, Skinnydip London
Lynsey Munn Global online trading manager, Jack Wills
Dharmesh Patel Merchandiser – ecommerce menswear, River Island
Rebecca Stevens Ecommerce trading manager, Ted Baker
James Springham Sales director, Poq
Rebecca Thomson Head of commercial projects, Drapers
Sammy Waddell Assistant online content manager, Jack Wills
Andy Whyte Head of sales, Poq