Mothercare uses mobile to engage with customers, not just to sell

Mothercare is continuing to use mobile to improve customer service and engage with users

Mothercare is using mobile technology to improve customer service and engage with users.

The pregnancy and baby equipment retailer is centring its customer engagement through all of its channels, but especially through its mobile applications.

Speaking at cloud-based platform Demandware’s user conference in Barcelona, Harpinder Singh, mobile commerce manager at Mothercare, said retailers should be putting customers at the heart of what they do, rather than just trying to sell products.

“We need to compete with the likes of Amazon, and if we just go with price we will end up slashing margins and going out of business,” he told delegates. “Mobile has given us a real opportunity to be more competitive.”

The Mothercare and Early Learning Centre brands have the advantage that their customers are looking for more than just a place to purchase goods – they also want service, advice and information.

“They’re probably not going to the Early Learning Centre to look for a toy that they can get from somewhere else, they’re looking for ideas and information on what the best learning toys are,” said Singh. 

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“But I don’t think we’ve always got that right as a brand in the past. We’ve relied too much on our brand names and gone down the price-competitive route and tried to do lots of promotions and offers. I think it’s been quite detrimental to the business over time,” he added.

Singh described how the retailer has mobile sites for both brands, as well as a recent addition to its existing native applications in the form of an iPad app. But he said the applications do more than just sell the product – they have a “whole bunch of engaging content” and are also used in-store as specialist tools.

The Mothercare app allows users to personalise it with photos of their children, and features advice, video content such as how to change a nappy, and baby songs.

Singh said the content and additional features weren’t all new, and they were “all over the place”, but mobile allowed Mothercare to bring it all together under one roof. 

For the Early Learning Centre, Singh said the company might look at educational games in the future, due to the trend of parents passing phones to their children to keep them occupied.

Singh said that when Mothercare first developed its mobile applications, it kept asking itself how it could make the app better so that customers would come back and interact every day – not just to buy, but to communicate with the brand.

“We need to take that as a learning step and put it towards what we do on our mobile sites, what we do on our websites and what we do with everything else in how we communicate with our customer,” he said.

The retailer has been going through some organisational changes, with a new chief executive and changing business structure. 

Singh said the company intends to make e-commerce its main business, with its 200 stores as support. “We’re putting online and omni-channel at the heart of what we do,” he said.

Brands that don’t take advantage of mobile are the ones that are going to suffer

Harpinder Singh, Mothercare

And Singh believes the UK isn’t ignoring mobile as a channel, pointing towards Top Shop, Net-A-Porter and Asos, which are all not only selling goods, but also engaging with customers through content.

“Mobile has opened up that opportunity,” he said. “If you can have great customer interaction and customer experience, the transaction element will take care of itself. Brands that don’t take advantage of mobile going forward are the ones that are going to suffer.”

Singh also announced that the retailer will be looking to trial beacon technology in 2015, but assured delegates that privacy is a top priority for the retailer, as it wouldn’t want to alienate concerned customers. 

The retailer has already been approached by customers who are worried about an innocent feature in its mobile app which allows users to personalise it with photos of their children. However, with Apple’s iOS, a message alerts customers when they download the app informing them it needs access to their photos.

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