Mobile comes first. Have you heard that one yet?
It doesn’t matter if you are a big established retailer or a new kid on the block, if you don’t have a mobile-first mentality, you are going to be left behind.
Kyla Robinson is the Senior Product Manager for Mobile Applications at Saks Fifth Avenue and Gilt in the US. She knows what it means to bring a traditional retailer into the digital era, and at Online Retailer Sydney she will share with us her incredible mobile initiatives.
Before we see her live, we have asked Kyla a few questions:
1. Tell us a bit about you and your background?
I’ve been in the mobile space for the past 8 years. My first role was an internship at a mobile marketing agency when I was in college in Chicago, then moved on to mobile focused roles across beauty, advertising, finance, and retail. At Hudson’s Bay, I oversee customer facing mobile apps inclusive of Saks Fifth Avenue and Gilt.
2. Saks Fifth Avenue is a 93 years old retailer. How has it managed to remain relevant for nearly 100 years?
A dedicated and focused relationship with our customer. Saks believes all of our clients deserve personalized service, so the relationship between the associates and our customers is at the core of our business. It’s this strong connection that has kept Saks relevant, and we are now leveraging technology to make this relationship even stronger.
3. There’s a lot of talk about the future of department stores, some saying they’re dead. What’s your opinion on it?
We see the department store of the future as a destination. Consumer buying habits are changing and personalized, all channel strategies are necessary. The old department store model will not work. The all-channel customer is looking for one seamless experience with a retailer, not separate relationships for in-store and online. And they are looking for an experience that allows them to shop wherever, whenever, and however they want.
4. What is Saks doing to reinvent physical retail and attract consumers in-store?
Saks stores are combining in-store technology along with Saks’ best-in-class luxury service offerings, to create an all channel lifestyle shopping experience. For example, we launched a platform that connects customers with local store associates for a curated shopping experience. Shoppers can connect to an employee, and associates can create custom lookbooks, answer customer questions, share a product online, or follow up on a customer’s last visit. We’re also incorporating unique lifestyle features and services. For example, our newest store, Saks Downtown Men’s features made-to-measure suits, leather and shoe repair services, a tech bar, and rotating pop-up space—an in-house coffee bar and barbershop are coming soon. We are also in the process of exploring new initiatives that use mobile technology to create a personalized high-touch in-store experience.
5. You are great believer that the key to success in retail is to have a mobile-first mentality. Can you elaborate on that?
There are a couple of ways to think about this and they all stem from thinking about the customer. We know the growth of mobile traffic continues to exponentially increase year over year. In order to win, businesses need to change the focus and team organization across engineering, design, marketing, and merchandising to think about mobile first in order to try and solve these challenges. From a technology team perspective, it is critical to have agile empowered teams that are able to iterate, test, analyze, and continuously launch features into the market for direct customer feedback. From a design perspective across the board, we need to think about form factor design and start by thinking about the smallest screen first and easily scalable components. This sounds basic but I’ve yet to see this executed well across a variety of industries. Finally from a merchandising and marketing perspective – content, sequencing, product personalization, search, and filters become even more important because the device real estate is significantly smaller so immediate relevancy is key. While companies continue to hire mobile-specific roles (my own app specific one included), it’s critical for everyone across the business to think about mobile specifications and challenges first when generating new ideas, planning strategy, and building features.
6. Tell us a bit more about your app, and how you created a framework based on customer insights.
The customer was at the center of the process from the initial kick-off meeting for the Saks App. We interviewed Saks customers to understand their motivations to shop and their feelings about us as a retailer, and the value we provide. This is before a single sketch was created. Throughout the development and design process, weekly we tested prototypes with customers to gather feedback and make adjustments where needed. Specifically, we knew the navigation was critical to get right since we have thousands of products at any given time. We heavily tested various concepts until we were confident customers got it. Now that we’ve launched, in the app customers can directly give feedback, which we analyze and review monthly. We also continue to bring in real customers to test out new design concepts and features.
7. What have the results of the app been? Has it had a positive impact on the conversion rate and demand?
Results have been very strong. I can’t share specific revenue numbers, but the user-level conversion rate is the highest among all digital channels for Saks.
8. Everyone is talking about Millennials, AI, conversational commerce and the integration of digital in stores. What do you think is next in retail?
I think conversational commerce is a high potential area. Especially for companies focused on service, where associates already have close relationships and are communicating regularly with customers Digital technology in store is also a big one. Stores are heavily testing augmenting the customer experience with digital touchscreens, enhanced mirrors, and more.
9. And what is next for Saks Fifth Avenue?
Innovative shopping experiences, whether online or in-store, are what our customers have come to expect from Saks – so that’s what we’re continuing to work toward and evolve. I can’t reveal anything specific yet, but we’ll certainly be exploring new features across channels.
10. Can you share your number one actionable eCommerce tip for success in the future?
Empower your teams to use technology and run autonomously.
You can catch Kyla speak at Online Retailer Sydney, July 26-27, ICC Darling Harbour. Purchase your tickets here.