Management / Putting the personal touch to modern e-tail

Putting the personal touch to modern e-tail

Shopping is rarely easier than when it involves sitting in a plush leather chair browsing the latest fashions on an online store, while chatting with a friend and enjoying the finest Italian coffee.

STRICTLY NOT TO BE USED/PRINTED WITHOUT CONSENT FROM TOM CAMPBELL.

When you see something you want to buy, there’s no need to fight your way through crowds at the store – just press the buy button to click and collect. That is House of Fraser’s new multi-channel concept store, currently trialling at Caffè Nero in Cambridge.

“We were one of the first to do click and collect in the UK,” Andy Harding, executive director of Multi-Channel at House of Fraser, tells me. “We have the best click-and-collect service, in the sense that you can order later than everyone else for early delivery. It is nationwide and seven days a week.

“We have the fastest service. We are constantly looking to innovate. We will be pushing  backthe cut-off time to order and collect the next day. It is 10 o’clock at the moment, but we will be pushing it out to midnight at some point.

“We see collection as a really important part of the delivery proposition. Driving people into our stores really benefits us as then we can have more of a relationship with the customer. It is such an important part of our strategy because it delivers such a great service and it benefits the customer because there is this myth that delivery is convenient, but it isn’t. You still have to be at home and most people have a job.”

The multi-channel approach at House of Fraser is about being able to deliver a consistent brand experience in all the different channels, from online to in store, says Harding. To help give customers this consistency and create a multi-channel experience in store, iBeacon technology is used to deliver content to people’s mobiles.

“The mobile is the glue between online and offline,” Harding says. “The more you can make the mobile experience contextually relevant in the retail environment, the more you will connect customers with the brand in a better way. You can use Wi-Fi, you can use NFC. You get somebody to connect to an iBeacon and you can deliver content to them and enrich their experience when they are in store. If you can get customers to get their phone out of their pocket that is a success.”

House of Fraser’s multi-channel strategy certainly seems to be paying off – in 2014 it won multi-channel retailer of the year at the Drapers and RetailWeek Paypal Etail Awards.

Harding believes good leadership is the key to implementing a successful click-and-collect and multi-channel strategy. “You need business leadership backing,” Harding says. “You need the CEO and the board behind you. You will not make the necessary changes within the necessary time frames that you need to make them without that whole-business support.

“You need multi-channel board-level representation – and once you have that you need particular retail support. You need communication education. You need to get the retail colleagues, the guys in store, to understand the value of what we are doing and why we are doing it from a customer perspective.

“We are very much customer-centric. It is a part of our DNA. You have to demonstrate how the customers use the technology.
How it helps them and how these strategies benefit the wider House of Fraser strategy.

“If they do not see how important it is and do not understand the process, then invariably that means you will let the customer down. We demonstrate to stores what happens when things go wrong if they don’t follow the process.”

Harding believes we are only at the beginning of the curve when it comes to retail technology, and that there will be more innovation to come.

He says: “There is massive growth in this area, because technology is driving consumer behaviour. Our lives are becoming increasingly digital, the internet of things and our homes are becoming much more connected with different devices.”

Creating a consistent experience for consumers, where technology can help connect them to their favourite brands while maintaining the personal touch, looks like it could be a shrewd multi-channel strategy to take.

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