If you asked a fashion consumer to name the areas on an online fashion store, they will inevitably mention the list of products, the product images, the shopping bag and the promotional photoshoots often rotating on the home screen. Yet, the stores will generally also consist of brand logo’s, lookbooks, personalisation tools, customisation features, social areas and relationship building tools. All of these features combine to create the whole consumer experience, and whether the consumer is aware of this or not, the experience is what will keep them coming back.
For all fashion businesses, the question is no longer ‘should we go mobile’ but ‘how should we go mobile?’ With the fashion business being one that attracts, acquires and retains loyal consumer, retailers must ensure that they are continuously providing them with the right services. With 43% of UK consumers accessing the Internet on their mobile (Mintel, 2012, A), a retailer needs to be aware that potentially one in every two of their consumers may be entering their site on a mobile phone. Furthermore, with 10% of mobile users being active users of mobile shopping applications (Mintel, 2012, B) retailers may realise that a native mobile app is a viable opportunity for their brand. So whether a business chooses to design a mobile web app or native app, what steps should they be taking to ensure that their mobile channel is as successful as their website.
1. Create a consistent and representative multi-channel
With trust and satisfaction being two of the major reasons for website usage and repatronage, a retail website needs to reassure the consumer that their site is secure, professional and authentic. The obvious way to do so is to design a mobile channel that is a miniature and comparable channel to the brand website. Take Topshop as an example. Their website shouts clean and crisp minimalism, simultaneous with the way that designer brands design their physical stores and concessions. Upon this white base, the brand is able to highlight the colours and designs of their clothing, attract consumers by moving images and draw their eye to particular promotional signs and messages. They utilise brand colours, brand logos, shapes, symbols, imagery and a layout that represents their brand identity and creates a recognisable image for the brand. Their native app has followed the same aesthetic, utilising a plain white background, brand logo to the top, Topshop fonts, shapes and symbols and branded imagery concurrent with that on the website. The user immediately recognises the brand insignia, forms a sense of confidence and reassurance and ultimately decides to utilise the service. In early 2012, 8% of Topshop’s online sales were via mobile, a figure that has surely risen increasingly since, but still highlights how important a consistent mobile strategy can be.
2.Integrate your most valuable website features in a mobile format
There is no point in designing a mobile channel for the purpose of selling your products alone. Such a strategy will only be helpful for those consumers who have previously chosen a product online or in-store and have decided to buy it via mobile. For the majority of consumers, retailers should not miss the opportunity to inspire and excite them. A vast number of consumers decide to use mobile channels in order to be inspired by new products and trend information, looking for style advice and new products to hit the high street. They may not have a chosen style in mind but are searching for a reason to purchase. The integration of social media tools such as a Twitter feed, Pinterest board or Tumblr page will also help to encourage and inform the user of recent events, trends and products. Retailers need to take control of this opportunity, ensuring that they have optimised their channels to include exciting content, inspirational copy, trend inspiration and advice that pushes the consumer to feel that they need to purchase the products they have seen. In addition to this, by providing the consumer with relationship building tools such as friendly and entertaining blog posts, newsletter and magazine spread pages complete with outfits and styled products linking to product pages, the consumers’ feelings of satisfaction and brand affiliation will increase. Ultimately, purchase intentions will rise and the success of the mobile store will be apparent.
3. Do not forget the importance of app functionality
Whilst making sure that you have provided your consumer with access to every product you stock is important, they also need to find those products in an easy, straight-forward and often persuasive fashion. Customisation features on mobile apps enable the consumer to modify the layout and display of the product listings, giving them the choice of how they would like to browse. The ASOS app for example utilises a zoom in and out feature symbolised by a plus and minus sign. By selecting either button, the product display zooms in to two items per row or zooms out to a maximum of four. This enables fast scrolling or a more detailed view depending on the users’ preference. The merchandise can also be refined or sorted, often by price, size, colour, brand and so on. The users experience is parallel with that of the online store.
Furthermore, the retailer is able to utilise their favourite marketing techniques to up-sell items to the influenced consumer. Personalisation tools such as ‘wear this item with this,’ ‘complete the look with this item’ or ‘we also recommend these products’ are some of the inspirational techniques that retailers are currently utilising. It pushes the consumer to not only buy the item they were looking at, but to try further products because they will complete the outfit. Think of it like the way in which we are incentivised with sweets and accessories on barrier shelving when queuing in the stores. Before we get to the till, there is always one more item they could sell to us. Yet, consumers do appreciate such techniques and feel as though it is the retailer providing them with useful and helpful information to aid their shopping experience. Therefore, it is a technique that should not be pushed to the wayside because it may take more effort and time to integrate.
These are just three steps that a retailer must follow when designing their mobile web or native app, but they are definitely the very minimum. Without taking care to optimise the experience of the mobile user, a mobile channel will not be the success it was hoped to be. If you take the time to optimise your channel, a consumer will take their time to purchase.
Mintel, (2012), A, Mobile Phone Retailing – UK – January 2012.
Mintel (2012), B, Mobile Phone Apps – UK – June 2012.