House of Fraser COO urges marketers to embrace multichannel

In order to be truly multichannel, retail brands must have a consistent voice across their business or risk a backlash, according to House of Fraser’s COO Andy Harding, who was speaking on Marketing Week Live’s Big Debate stage today.

Predicting that net sales at the fashion retailer would increase by 19.1% to £306m in 2015, he said its adoption of in-store technology has been key to recent successes.

“We’ve really tried to combine all of our retail and brand marketing with online and mobile so there’s a single strategy throughout the business,” Harding told delegates.

“You have to bring everything together, from in-store to mobile apps, or you lose credibility. I don’t like the term ominichannel as every experience should be seen as unique.”

Over recent years, House of Fraser has introduced beacon-powered mannequins, which can recommend products to in-store consumers using their smartphones. It has also moved to make its online retail website designed for touch screen systems in order to boost functionality for mobile and tablet users.

Harding said that House of Fraser had “dramatically driven” mobile app use in store and revealed it would soon introduce a payments feature to the app.

When asked how multichannel and digital features could change the future in-store experience, he responded: “I think there could be magic mirrors in our shops, which give advice to customers trying on clothes and self-service tills like the supermarkets. I think the face of high street retail will change drastically due to multichannel technologies.”

Personalisation is key

Also speaking during the Big Debate presentation was Jennifer Day, head of customer management and personalisation at Littlewoods and Very.com’s owner Shop Direct.

In the year to 30 June 2014, profits at online retail driven Shop Direct rose to £64.6m, with 44% of sales now coming from tablets and mobile phones.

“We have a personalisation hub and it isn’t unusual for up to 100 experiments to go on a month,” she said.

“I think brands have to adapt a ‘can do’ attitude to personalisation as it’s really changed our business and the evolution from catalogues to digital.”

One of those experiments includes utilising geographic location tracking to update pages on Very.com to display clothes suitable based on the live weather conditions in an online shopper’s area.

House of Fraser has 1.2m variations of its homepage and 7,500 variations of its customer newsletters, and Day claimed that personalisation efforts will drive incremental sales of £20m to Shop Direct in 2015.

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