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Driving sales growth with improved multichannel offering after major investment programme

Multichannel sales have proved to be a significant driver of recent growth for House of Fraser, with the department store retailer reporting a rise of 4.6 % like-for-like sales for August and September.

Internet and mobile sales 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 Andy Harding, House of Fraser e-commerce director, working closely with long term retail systems integration partner eCommera and e-commerce platform Demandware.

Innovating with channel integration

Online sales reached £50 million 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 multichannel retail can offer,” commented 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 multichannel 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 enabled 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, increasing its brand count from around 800 to over 1,200, and including premium brands who wanted their own space to sell.

Project highlights and success 

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 online 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 online, in a small physical store location.

Staff are on hand simply to help customer to use the technology and navigate the websites, 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, could be immense.

Introducing cross-channel loyalty

A new cross-channel loyalty scheme was integrated allowing customers to accrue points regardless of how they shop – be it instore, online, or via telephone. Partner 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; but eCommera the internal House of Fraser IT department work through new designs.

The launch of buy & collect

The website features ‘buy and collect’ services, which allows shoppers to order online by 3pm and collect next day afternoon from any nominated store across the country. Over a third (35%) of online purchases are now collected instore driving, rather than discouraging, footfall into the High Street. A majority (84%) of users describe the service as “excellent”.

Ordering online in the 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.

Mobile development at a pace

More recently, eCommera worked with House of Fraser on the development of a mobile optimised site. The move was part of House of Fraser’s multichannel strategy but also responded to a dramatic rise in traffic to the main website through mobile devices. At time of publication, 25% of traffic was via a mobile device.

Harding added: “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 multichannel customer.”

The retailer has also recently introduced free customer Wi-Fi with O2, launched a new online rewards card, introduced a store on eBay and deployed a new tag management system to track online marketing attribution.

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