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JD Williams uses analytics to move from mail order to omni-channel

JD Williams’ head of web analytics explains how the firm is using data to provide a personalised experience for customers

For the past 10 years, retailers have been moving away from traditional retail methods, such as bricks-and-mortar stores, to incorporate online and mobile shopping.

Originally a catalogue retailer, N Brown Group, owner of JD Williams, turned to data analytics to offer personalisation for customers shopping online and on mobiles.

Along with JD Williams, N Brown Group owns a mix of bricks-and-mortar, online and catalogue offerings, as well as one pureplay brand.

Speaking at the Retail Business Technology Expo (RBTE), Gareth Powell, head of web analytics at JD Williams, said the first thing analytics highlighted to the company was the proliferation of mobile.

“Unlike a lot of retailers, we come from a mail order heritage,” he said. “Bearing in mind our average customer age [of 50+], mobile is moving quite quickly.”

Unexpected mobile generation

In 2015, 63% of JD Williams’ sales were made on mobile or tablet devices, despite the main demographic for the retailer being women over the age of 50.

“Over half of our traffic is now coming in via smartphone, and a healthy proportion via tablet,” said Powell.

Analytics on the JD Williams website showed a single customer could sometimes interact with the brand through up to 10 different sessions on multiple devices.

This will vary from person to person, and Powell pointed out that customers use different devices throughout the day, depending on if they are at work, at home or dual-screening.

Although tablets used to be a more popular browsing device, Powell has noticed a slowdown in their use. Smartphone use in retail is on the rise, however, and is now JD Williams’ main consumer touchpoint.

Using analytics to drive change

By analysing website traffic trends, the firm noticed there was an increased drop-off rate for certain pages on smartphone devices. It also found that 30% of customers were opting to sign in automatically.

“On smartphone and mobile, 9% of people who were exiting on that device did so on the ‘my account’ page,” Powell said. “On the sign-in page, 4% of smartphones users were exiting.”

To improve the customer experience and drive retention, the firm decided to redesign the problem pages, and has since seen a 36.5% increase in people going from sign-in page to registration funnel.

“It’s important that we start to improve that capability for our customers because that’s where they’re heading,” said Powell. “We’ve started to dive into that in a lot more detail.”

Customer personalisation

JD Williams has also been experimenting with a personalised customer experience to make the website “more sticky” and ensure customers continue browsing.

Customers who are new to the website will be presented with a different page to those who have visited before, and customer data will determine what each visitor sees on the site.

A customer who signs up to JD Williams is assessed on “lifetime value”. From the data collected, the retailer can estimate a customer’s profit level by how much they bought or returned, whether they respond to emails and when they browse.

“You can see from that data there’s a lot of opportunity, so when you talk about personalising for a customer, you’ve got it all there,” said Powell. “It’s not just about personalisation, it’s not just about UX [user experience], but it’s about how can we use that data to find out what we should do with our website.”

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Powell pointed out that without this customer data, personalisation is not possible. “You’ve got the ability to start using this data now, on the site, in real time,” he said. “Let analytics dictate what is the right presentation for the customer.”

Powell said this has taken the firm a while to implement, because when it was a catalogue-only business it did not have access to data, and the data takes a long time to process properly.

“Your customers are leaving a bread crumb behind when they go to your web store,” said Powell. “Before we had access to that data we were a little bit blind.”

Targeted customer emails

Emails are still a popular way for retailers to target individual customers, and JD Williams has been working on using information collected about them in marketing campaigns.

By using customer data, Powell said JD Williams can “start to understand the motivations, desires and intent” of customers and use analytics to “retarget them quite aggressively via email”.

Banners and email content are dependent on whether the customer has made a purchase recently, what each customer has browsed, when they visited a site and what they looked at during that visit.

“Rather than doing batch promotional emails, we get something in the region of a 25% increase in sales per email through these automated emails,” said Powell. “For me, everything comes back to the customer.” 

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