Marketing Week (MW): Why have you not developed a mobile app so far?
Paul Owers (PO): If you are going to go for an app, you need to first make it web-enabled. You have to provide the mobile web offer first and then build it into an app.
Where you have good internet service, you will become less reliant on the app. People who have Apple iPhone apps find themselves having to update them regularly because they keep changing.
If you are going to do an app, you also need to give people more value added into the offer. When you go for an app, you have to look at the things that differentiate you from others and the service you can provide on top of that.
MW: Is that why you chose to prioritise the development of a mobile website?
PO: We could see from the statistics that lots of people were using mobiles to access the main site. If people are out and about and have the opportunity to see our catalogue, look at items, get a bit more information and do some research, it might help the stores and not just the online sales. It is collecting the marketing channels together.
We can adapt the mobile site and present it in 15,000 different browser types. Even if you are on an old Nokia mobile phone, it will do a good job of rendering the site and giving you a good experience.
MW: What were your initial objectives for the mobile website and how has it performed?
PO: The conversion rate so far on the mobile has been surprisingly good. In the first two months, it has produced several thousand pounds. We did not expect to be taking a huge amount of money through it because putting card details into a phone is not something we expected people to want to do.
I am quite surprised and pleased about that – the mobile site was more for giving people information about their closest store along with a bit more information about the products and the range when they are on the go. It was more of a marketing exercise initially, but it is actually proving to be quite good in terms of converting customers as well.
MW: Does this mean the mobile website is likely to be important for making transactions in future?
PO: The desktop website is always going to do better for sales because people are more comfortable with that. They are in a private environment at home and able to use their card details, which people are concerned about. You are not going to get a card out and type the numbers in on a mobile phone, unless you are somewhere safe and secure.
There are improvements to be made in the card services area to make that work well. When we can save people’s card details like PayPal and Amazon do in the background and have that stored in a secure way, the mobile will become easier to use for transactions. But there is a little way to go with that yet.
MW: Are Apple’s mobile platforms more important than its competitors’ for the purposes of marketing through apps and the mobile web?
PO: A high proportion of users in this country are Apple iPhone users, and the iPhone is quite well-suited to the mobile site. We do not tend to push the iPad to the mobile site because the iPad is so big it might as well use the ’full-fat’ version. Outside the UK, people mainly seem to use Android.
I would not go for Apple ahead of everybody else. In the UK, the iPhone is king – there is no doubt about it. But outside the UK that is not the case. In the US, where we also have a business, Android is more predominant. We will look at all of the platforms.