eTail Europe 2021

London, UK

Here's How John Lewis Is Engaging the Mobile Customer in Stores

It's no secret that today, while smartphone penetration across the globe is sky-high, mobile conversions remain low.

More consumers use mobiles than they do any other type of device - tablet, laptop, or desktop. According to Ofcom's International Communications Market Report 2017, in the UK, 75% of the adult population now regularly use a smartphone - forecast to rise to 79.7% by 2022 - compared to 52% who use a tablet, 66% a laptop, and just 39% who regularly use a desktop computer.

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Figures from Optimizely show that UK retailers are citing an average rise of 54% of traffic coming from mobile devices. While on the surface this might appear promising, the conversion rates on smartphones are far lower than desktops or tablets.

Indeed, even though the smartphone is clearly the device of choice for the vast majority of digital consumers, retailers in the UK, the US, and elsewhere are struggling with mobile conversions.

The most recent data from personalisation technology provider Monetate - accessible in the EQ3 2017 report - reveals that mobile conversions lag far behind those on desktop and tablet on both sides of the pond.

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The question, then, is this - since smartphone penetration and mobile traffic is so high, why are retailers struggling to acquire mobile customers?

We have to be careful how we interpret the data on mobile usage. The reality is that consumers spend most of their time on smartphones checking emails, messaging, and catching up with news and gossip on social media. And so, while smartphone use is overwhelmingly popular for these types of activities, many consumers in western markets also own a desktop, laptop, or tablet, and it is these devices that tend to get used for more detailed product research and comparisons, and, of course, purchasing.

Mobile shoppers, it seems, are low-funnel, possibly high-intent buyers while browsing retailers' websites. But when it comes to the final click, they simply don't have the confidence.

In order to engage the many millions of smartphone users, retailers need to embrace the fact that most consumers are not 'mobile first' shoppers as yet, and develop strategies that instead engage the multichannel majority.

How John Lewis Engages Multichannel Customers

High-end UK department store chain John Lewis is widely regarded as somewhat of a trailblazer when it comes to customer experience - and its strategy to engage the mobile customer is no exception.

The store has an unprecedented focus on fulfilling a multichannel service strategy that ensures customers continue to enjoy an excellent experience no matter if they are shopping in-store, online, or on mobile.

"There are now a lot more digital-only shoppers, but they aren't our focus," says Charlie Mayfield, Chairman of the John Lewis Partnership. "The most valuable shoppers are the ones who shop across multiple channels as they tend to spend a lot of money with us. So while digital is a big focus, I wouldn't say we're a digital-first business, it's more just waking up to the fact consumers now need multiple efficient options to access our brand."

In recent times, a big part of the company's strategy has revolved around the innovative use of its mobile app to complement the in-store experience. The John Lewis app includes in-built barcode scanners and store finders, and stores are equipped with free Wi-Fi to help shoppers find and purchase products in the way that is most suitable and convenient for them.

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Understanding the Mobile Shopper

Including all types of devices, mobile now accounts for more than 50% of John Lewis's online traffic, according to the company's Mobile Product Manager, Tom Rooney.

However, in-line with global trends, mobile conversions at John Lewis are low in comparison to other digital devices. "Smartphones tend to generate shorter but more frequent engagements," says Rooney. "Shoppers are getting it out of their pocket for a quick look - whereas tablet users enjoy a longer, more leisurely experience. The propensity to buy is also higher with tablets, but smartphones are very important at the research stage."

As a result, rather than looking towards smartphones as a means to drive mobile conversions, the John Lewis app has been developed to be the perfect in-store shopping companion, used as a tool to guide shoppers around the store, help them find product information, access their loyalty cards, and keep records of their purchases.

As Rooney explains: "Our app is a focal area for bringing the customer experience together. We've built a lot of features specifically to enhance the in-store journey, from mobile barcode scanners to our 'kitchen drawer', which is a digital substitute for paper receipts. Shoppers can store a record of their purchase in the cloud, so they don't have to carry around strips of paper.

"We have also digitised our loyalty cards, and made them available through Apple wallet, which customers like because they don't have to carry a plastic card around with them. We're getting positive feedback on the fact we're trying to make life easier for our customers through digital innovation, and we're seeing stronger growth where loyalty and mobile overlap."

Striving Towards the Full Omnichannel Experience

While John Lewis is clearly leading the way in creating unrivalled mobile experiences, the ongoing challenge for the retailer is to continue to recognise the multichannel needs of the modern consumer - in-store, online, on mobile, and on social media - and develop a strategy where everything is joined up. And that, indeed, is precisely what the retailer is now striving for.

The last word goes to Chris Hipwell, IT Stakeholder Communications Manager at John Lewis.

"Today's remarkable growth story for John Lewis is a story of not just online, not just multi-channel, but a full 'omnichannel' approach where customers expect a seamless and inter-connected performance across channels. That means that at John Lewis, we are engaged in our biggest ever strategic technology challenge, which is fully to integrate our award-winning omnichannel customer service offering, giving each customer a seamless, high-quality experience however they choose to interact with us."

Omnichannel, multichannel, and mobile experiences are set to be a hot topic at eTail Europe 2018 , taking place this June at the Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre in London.

Download the agenda today for more insights and information.

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