As a fashion brand, having the Duchess of Cambridge pictured in one of your designs is the stuff dreams are made of. With just one snap an item can go from overlooked to sold out overnight.
But the ‘Kate effect’, as it is known, isn’t without its challenges. In order to take full advantage of the increased interest, brands need to move quickly. So being set up to react to moments like this is critical.
British clothing retailer Boden has been on a digital transformation journey to enable it to do just that, which was put to the test when Kate Middleton was featured in the Evening Standard wearing one of its coats last year.
“Any retailer knows they’ve got to take that opportunity as quickly as possible. Overnight we changed our landing page to an image of the coat. The ability to have that imagery ready and react quickly is critical. You can’t lose momentum as the news is quickly forgotten,” says Glenn Joyce, senior production manager at Boden.
Moving fast and cutting out the “grey areas” allowed Boden to increase sales of the coat by 282%. “We usually sell around 17 units a day, but we sold 365 that day.” he says.
Joyce, who was speaking at an event hosted by software firm Workfront and content management company LGS yesterday (11 April), was involved in initiatives to transform elements of the brand’s creative services process in order to generate efficiencies and improve the customer experience.
Boden started life as a catalogue business and although it established its digital offer in 1999 it was only two years ago that it began ramping up the proposition.
Part of this transformation has been to streamline its internal processes, particularly when it comes to managing assets such as images to enable it to produce content at a faster pace as and when it is needed.
“Our main aim is to react to trade a lot quicker across all our channels and serve up our assets faster than we have been able to before,” he explains. “In the past, there have always been hurdles, from briefings coming in from the marketing team or reacting to trade, and the turnaround time internally has just been quite slow,” he said.
Within its digital asset management system, for example, images had been stored in different states, which means they couldn’t always be used by the marketing team as quickly as they needed them. “If it’s an image that’s just been shot and it’s looking a mess, we can’t use it as it’s got to go through various systems. Being able to get that to the customer quicker is going to be the real success.”
Boden’s new way of working is already improving efficiencies, but Joyce admitted the business is finding it hard to measure, particularly as the amount of work it churns out increases.
“It’s really hard to measure how efficient we are becoming because we haven’t really looked at resource management,” he said. “Another thing we need to look at is acting like an internal creative services team. At the moment we are effectively that, but it’s about almost treating us as an agency to our marketing team, and saying we are a serving partner of yours, we’re going to bill you for our time and work out what is more important to you. That is going to be a real indicator on the return on investment of our time.
“So if we’re taking 10 hours to produce an email to sell scarves and we only get 10 orders it’s a waste of time. But at the moment we’re not measuring the time it’s taking to do every single asset and we might not necessarily get all that information from marketing, so closing that loop will be good as well because it will help us to say – this is what we have as a team, if you want to spend your time and money with us you need to show us it’s worth it.”
Workfront’s Simon Adler, who is director of solution engineering in EMEA, added that businesses must be clear from the outset about what they are planning to achieve in order to improve measurement.
“It’s important to put a stake in the ground and be able to look at what you planned to do versus what you actually did. Digital transformation isn’t something you do and then move on to the next thing, it’s a continual evolution. You’re never done. Businesses therefore need to continually measure themselves to see what they should be doing differently to remain nimble and agile so they can respond faster.”
The challenge for Boden is to keep up the momentum as it continues on its digital transformation journey, while making sure senior management remain engaged.
“You need to be very clear to all stakeholders about what you want to deliver and you need to have a decent senior sponsor within the organisation to get buy-in. You also need to keep engagement going. There’s always resistance to change but it’s about trying to keep that momentum up and keeping people educated on the system and making sure they’re using it properly while keeping senior sponsorship as well.”
When it comes to innovation, Joyce says Boden’s position is to “jump in and take a chance” but he warns that brands must be prepared to give things adequate time to see whether they are effective or not.
“You’ve got to give things a good run. You can’t jump in, give it a month and decide it didn’t work. Testing is very important,” he says.
He uses personalisation as an example. “We have a hell of a lot of data but it’s working out what we do with it because some customers don’t react well to you knowing about them.”
In Germany, for example, people do not respond positively to being sent an email or catalogue with their name on it. “People prefer to be addressed formally and they react best to communication that looks almost like a financial letter rather than a branded piece. Testing is key.”