Redefining the Customer
HVO Search brought together
Sarah Curran-Usher - MD EMEA, True Fit
Lucy Aylen - Founder, Never Fully Dressed
Darren Rajanah - CEO, THG Ingenuity
and leaders in Fashion, Beauty, Luxury & Lifestyle to discuss the new customer shopping behaviour and how best to engage with new customers online.
More than two-thirds of shoppers are buying online for the first time and more than half are spending more online.
This means that brands are no longer in a position to not have an online presence. We explored what brands need to do to engage with this new customer.
Sarah Curran-Usher MBE
“Data is about truly understanding who your customer is and going the extra mile."
Sarah Curran-Usher MBE
More and more customers are moving online especially since the pandemic. Some that have never shopped online before. Are you seeing this?
One thing that's really fascinating is the change in behaviour pre and during Covid. There's been a staggering acceleration of users.
Many retailers expected the true acceleration of digital to be in 2023 but with Covid, that's not the case.
The age groups moving online are also completely balanced.
What trends are you currently seeing?
There's a reduction in dwell time. People are not browsing for inspiration, they know what they want, they make the purchase and they leave.
In terms of personalisation, when showing the customer items they would want or buy, you have to make sure you get that item in front of the customer in time. Otherwise, they will leave your platform.
How has the way customers buy evolved in the last 6 months?
We saw a huge drive in traffic and orders in direct to consumer brands - customers wanted to go to brands they felt an affinity with and trusted. As well as brands where they knew the sizing.
Without a doubt, there's been an influx of younger generation 19-24, what's driving this is the mobility of mobile. There's also been a dramatic increase in 50+, so it's great to see that the demographic is so diverse.
True Fit's genome of data means you can understand consumers and products more deeply - how does this help when predicting buying behaviour?
We are a true 360 colour spectrum of customer insight, not just size and fit but colour, affordability etc. and it's all these factor put together that make a difference.
By identifying customer aspirations you can pinpoint what they will buy and eradicate showing products that will hold no interest. You don't want the customer to have to scroll because not only will you lose the customer, they will leave not knowing you have styles that they would like.
Digital shoppers are demanding more in terms of predicting and personalisation - brands like Amazon and Spotify have nailed this so it's now in customers DNA.
"Detail is the data” (True Fit) what are the biggest pitfalls brands fall in when trying to use data to enhance experience? And likewise, what are the best examples of data use you’ve seen brands use?
77% of customers are not prepared to return if they're not happy and that's an acceleration from 3 years ago.
Sometimes retailers overthink the use of data and innovation technology and they forget to think like a customer. It's important to understand what enhances customer experience and accessibility.
Liberty's have nailed it, with their online platform.
When I look at the beauty sector it is ripe for data enhancement and it's a sector that's really going to benefit from acceleration.
The customer is disrupting the sector, so paying attention to their behaviour will really help your brand.
What aspect of personalisation has had the biggest impact on customer experience and the way they buy?
The basics! When customers land onto large multibrand sites they are shown pages and pages of items. To be able to instantly show them styles, colour, affordability that they like - that's a game changer. Why should customers spend so much time finding what they want in your catalogue? It's a wasted opportunity. You're potentially missing out on a customer.
Customers are way more savvy than they used to be, they way that we shop is changing - we know what we want, we want it on a plate and we want to be in and out quickly.
“It didn't matter if it was a practical purchase it mattered that it was an enjoyable purchase."
Lucy, you built Never Fully Dressed from scratch and social media and direct conversation with the customer have always been at the centre. How have your customers evolved since you started?
They're growing with us. We've always consciously tried to keep up having a direct conversation with our customer. Whether that's me on the market stall when we began, or now on Instagram
We missed customer feedback when we opened our first (and only) shop. The customers are so vocal which we love.
During Covid we extended our customer service hours and are looking to do that permanently. This agility has helped keep that conversation going.
We react to customer voices quickly and that works in our favour - if we run an Instagram live and multiple people ask for a dress in a different colour, we can start that process immediately.
Has the pandemic had an impact on your business? In what way? What are the reasons behind the changes?
Everyone was really nice and accepting during Covid.
Internally, relationships were built and strengthened among staff members - daily zoom calls with the whole team meant that some were interacting with team members they didn't speak to as often before. Friendships were built!
Has the customer shopping behaviour changed? In what way?
People have re-evaluated where they spend their money and they will continue buying pleasures that elevate their mood.
We're a colourful brand and people looked towards our brand as a bit of fun. It made people smile and this worked in our favour.
It didn't matter if it was a practical purchase it mattered that it was an enjoyable purchase.
“Our customer is our influencer” (Neverfullydressed) - how do you ensure customers stay loyal and ensure the best journey for them from start to finish? Have you started doing anything differently?
We're honest and approachable - customers have been on a journey with us so there's an open and transparent relationship there.
Customers being involved in styling or reposting their content to make them feel part of our brands works really well.
Be completely transparent. I did a video a couple of weeks ago about our sustainability and was honest that we're not at the best we can be yet, we're at this part of our journey. Customers, now more than ever, want authenticity.
Are you seeing a new ‘breed’ of customer? Who are they and what are their needs?
On Instagram, you can now see who unfollowed you and I'd rather have active followers who will be part of our brand.
People joining now are following us for the right reasons and the new customers are even more on the same wavelength as us - so I never am disappointed when people unfollow us.
Sustainability will also accelerate even more so than it was previously.
What advice would you give to brands wanting to capitalise on the new online customer?
Enjoy what you're doing. When you're enjoying something, you see your successes more clearly, which helps you to stay motivated.
Be true to where you want to go.
"Differentiate yourself right now when demand online is high."
Do you think Covid has changed the digital customer profile? How?
40% of sales are now online versus 20% pre Covid.
A month ago, 40% of people were uncomfortable shopping in store. The digital profile is certainly different to pre Covid.
There's no differentiation between demographics, just a fundamental shift online in all demographics so online retail is really inclusive right now.
Pure play retailers have seen nearly 100% increase in demand.
Retailers who are omni-channel have had a wakeup plan to accelerate e-commerce plans and implement them, particularly around infrastructure and customer profile.
The one word that describes Covid in terms of digital is acceleration - the pandemic has shown that you can make change in a relatively small amount of time.
Retailers across industries are rushing to establish a strong online presence right now, how can they build the best setup for long-term growth?
You need to set up options so you are able to react quickly.
Differentiate yourself right now when demand online is high.
Data is vital to be able to understand your customer which then informs product development.
Our DNA has always been around ownership of end to end data.
What would your advice be to brands wanting to build a more compelling brand proposition to attract more customers?
Create a seamless webstore experience for your customers. As Sarah said, if they aren't happy with their experience, they are unlikely to return.
How can brands stay one-step ahead of their competitors in an ever-evolving retail landscape? What’s your advice for capturing the new customer now?
Speed to market, cost effectively and at scale….tough with what currently exists
There's a big danger when spending lots of resources marketing your brand, only for the customers to visit your site and receive poor experience.
Work to make your content, localisation and functionality the best it can be for your customer. We are seeing conversion rates that are up 5% (9% for some).
Basics must be correct.
How can retailers build their omni-channel experience to prepare for when the high street returns to normal?
Giving customers options for where they can buy the products - there are so many channels at your disposal right now - use whichever ones work for you.
Brand awareness is key.
The 'new normal' means that digital will often be the first point of contact on the customer's journey.
Give customers options e.g. reserve in store, click to collect. Options that make them feel safe in this uncertain environment.
What’s the new recipe for ‘engagement for success’?
The main 'ingredient' is creating a seamless webstore experience. One with functionality, scalability, different digital propositions and one that is cost effective.
So it's clear, that during these past few months, digital has accelerated rapidly. To stay ahead of the curve, you need to think like your customer, communicate openly with them and make sure that your digital offering is seamless.
Brands can no longer get away with having a sub-optimal online presence.
During our live discussion we asked our attendees what they thought about personalisation and customer engagement strategies. Here's what they thought...
Sarah Curran-Usher MBE
Sarah Curran-Usher, MBE, is an entrepreneur, digital pioneer and Non-Executive Director.
In 2006, she launched my-wardrobe.com. During her time as CEO, the business won more than 15 global awards.
In 2013, Sarah joined Shop Direct and in 2015, as Managing Director, she launched very.co.uk’s premium platform, Very Exclusive.
In June 2020, she joined True Fit as Managing Director for EMEA. True Fit is a data-driven personalisation platform for footwear and apparel retailers.
Sarah is also a Board Non-Executive Director, specialising in digital for French Connection Plc.
In 2013, Curran-Usher was awarded an MBE for her services to fashion and retail.
Darren is CEO for The Hut Group Ingenuity, the end to end Ecommerce Platform, which was developed over 15 Years.
He is responsible for the core of THG's technology, infrastructure and digital services offering.
This powers THG’s own brands such as My Protein, as well as brands such as Nestle, Walgreens, P&G and L’Occitane Group.
Lucy is the Founder of Neverfullydressed, a clothing brand she started 11 years ago working from her mum's loft.
Lucy's drive comes mostly from her parents, who were market traders.
In the last 5 years, Neverfullydressed has grown 100% every year and is expected to do the same this year.
Lucy now has a team of 16, spanning across merchandising, finance, customer services, wholesale and design.