Fashion Retailer Explains How To Shift From 100% Bricks and Mortar to 80% Online in 5 Years

A recent Computer Weekly interview with Sam Lowe, CIO of luxury fashion retailer yielded some great insights into why and how the company moved from being a 100% bricks and Mortar to 80% Online business in just 5 Years.

Precipitating Factors

Mr Lowe identified several factors that precipitated the company’s changes as:

  • A changing retail environment. Other retailers were adopting technologies such as click-and-collect and RFID tags for stock.
  • Customers adopting digital technologies in their lives.
  • Technologies improving and working well enough to work well as part of an engaging luxury product experience.
  • Customer expectations and demands. Customers not only expect outstanding service in the luxury market that are in, but also now expect the same services that they can get from other retailers i.e. click-and-collect, website, a mobile offering, and technology empowered store assistants.
The Change Within

These main factors prompted a major internal change at that saw them move deliberately as far away as possible from the disjointed till point experience that old style retail stores use, towards a joined up use of technology to present customers with a luxury experience online and in-store. Essentially this has blurred the line between what is an in-store, and what is an online experience - an omni-channel experience.

The internal changes involved:
  • Changing the attitude to technology. IT was renamed as ‘Technology’ and was promoted from being just a supporting function to being placed at the centre of the business as the engine for growth.
  • A symmetrical and outside-in approach was adopted to allow the business to better understand the customer’s experience of This involved using the same applications internally that were used by customers and partners.
  • The building up of the technology team from 5 to 50 people by having a great proposition that attracted the right people. Being in London helped to source and attract these vital team members.
  • Keeping stores but seeing them more as an extra luxury experience to enhance the online offering.
  • Ensuring that a single customer view and a single product view are available while growing several channels. This involved connecting POS to an e-commerce system to enable all of the engaging data and imagery, getting a single view of stock to keep on top of things, maintain fluidity of stock, and to enable customers to access new products ahead of trends.
  • Creating a user-friendly website with suggestions that follow a customers journey (discovery links), and keeping a close eye on the analytics in order to better know the customer.

The Result

The result for customers has been a shopping experience that not only matches their expectations of a technologically advanced modern luxury retailer, but allows them to have move seamlessly between channels (mobile, website and store) to have a great shopping experience that makes them want to return.

In short, is an example of a fast and successful transition to an omni-channel approach to retailing that could provide some valuable pointers for other companies wishing to do the same.