Multi-channel sales have proved to be a significant driver of recent growth for House of Fraser, with the department store reporting a rise of 4.6% like-for-like sales for August and September. Sales through the internet and mobile devices currently account for around 10% of turnover and it is predicted that this will grow to over 20% within a few years.
The growth follows a significant multichannel investment programme over the past two years headed up by Director of eCommerce Andy Harding, working closely with long term partner eCommera and eCommerce platform Demandware.
In 2011 online sales reached £50m in 2011, but customer feedback showed that the site was not easy to use and that House of Fraser was falling behind the curve in terms of innovation.
"It is our goal to treat each customer like a VIP and that requires the personalisation that multi-channel retail can offer" comments Harding. "This is not about a shift in focus, such as fewer stores, but rather about bringing existing and new channels to market more closely, to provide a joined-up experience for customers. The company's multi-channel strategy is to encourage customers to shop across multiple channels by differentiating the service and through innovation."
An important development with the site, and a move that broke new ground in internet fashion retailing, was to enable customers to search not just by categories but by brands, which complemented House of Fraser's image as a House of Brands, with more brands than any other department store chain. This new 'brand navigation' structure enables both easy and customised navigation through over the brands. The new site design helped increase conversion and updated navigation allowed House of Fraser to easily launch new brands onto the website, ramping up the brand count from around 800 to over 1,200, including premium brands who wanted their own space to sell.
Highlight projects - House of Fraser.com concept stores
House of Fraser has worked with eCommera to use technology to enable a completely new retail format : the concept store, which brings together store and on line retail, and the technology to enable it. Currently being tested in Aberdeen and Liverpool, instead of displays of shoes, clothes and accessories, shoppers are greeted by banks of iPads, computers and interactive screens – giving them access to more than 1,000 brands on line, in a small physical store location.
Staff are on hand simply to help customer to use the technology and navigate the web sites, each optimised for each device and designed to set off the brands being promoted to best advantage. If these pioneering outlets prove successful, the opportunities for House of Fraser to extend its high street presence, both economically and flexibly, is clearly immense.
A new cross-channel loyalty scheme was integrated allowing customers to accrue points regardless of how they shop – be it in-store, online, or via telephone. eCommera faced complex integration challenges with the new loyalty programme as it meant introducing new payment types across the website. The joint project development also meant all timelines were compressed; eCommera rose to this challenge and helped the internal House of Fraser IT department work through these new designs.
Buy & Collect
The web site features Buy and collect services which allows shoppers to order online by 3pm and collect next day after noon from any nominated store across the country. 35% of online purchases are now collected in-store, driving rather than discouraging footfall into the High Street. 84% of users describe the service as "excellent."
Order in store
Online and in store integration one step further by introducing an assisted Order in Store service which allows House of Fraser store staff to help customers order goods online that are out of stock in the store. The customer can then either return to the store to collect or, if convenient, have the goods delivered directly to their homes.
More recently, eCommera worked with House of Fraser on the development of a mobile optimised site , as part of House of Fraser's multi-channel strategy but also in response to a dramatic rise in traffic to the main web site through mobile devices. At time of publication, 25% of traffic was via a mobile device. Harding said, "These mobile enhancements are about the customer experience and ultimately for us, profit. We regard the mobile site as the glue that binds our store and online offer, to attract the truly multi-channel customer."
Andrew McGregor, CEO of eCommera says "We knew from the outset that House of Fraser would set an ambitious pace, and that Demandware would give us the flexibility we needed, not only to generate highly distinctive customer journeys, but to make changes, modifications and adjustments as fast as possible."