MandM Direct develops on single platform to roll out multi-channel changes faster

Online fashion retailer MandM Direct has moved from developing its channels individually to a single platform, enabling it to roll out changes across different devices faster.

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Online fashion retailer MandM Direct has moved from developing its channels individually to a single platform, enabling it to roll out changes across different devices faster.

Three years ago, the “pureplay” online retailer had three separate platforms for desktop, tablets and mobile, with mobile being outsourced. Now, it has one platform fror all three types of devices.

“I change it once, and the functionality rolls across all channels,” Jonathon Brown, chief executive of MandM Direct told the British Retail Consortium Omni-Channel Retailing conference in London.

This means the retailer can “respond to customer behaviour quicker” and gives it greater “speed to market”, Brown said.

It also allows MandM Direct to provide a consistent experience to customers across all platforms.

“Consistency was the key word. Making the experience consistent across all devices,” said Brown.

For example, Brown wanted to make it possible for customers to save a basket on the desktop and continue to access that same basket on their mobile or tablet device.

MandM Direct completed its "responsive project" in just three months. This included the processes of gaining customer insight, performing gap analysis and customer testing, to going live.

"We built prototypes and then created a consistent brand experience [across all platforms]. All the assets are consistent," Brown said.

The retailer started with the mobile platform, followed by the desktop, and carried out a lot of multivariate testing (MVT) of processes as it went along. It chose 'responsive' over 'adaptive' design because its technical developers were able to achieve the results through this method faster, for example, by using snap points (where the website 'snaps' to the appropriate size depending on the size of the screen).

"The parameters were the screen size, rather than the device," Brown said.

Tablets present a challenge that is often underestimated, as neither the desktop nor mobile platform may be "good enough", Brown said. For instance, the desktop version on a tablet may have 'fat finger' issues, while there may be problems with blowing up a mobile site to fit a tablet screen. so that the desktop version on a tablet may suffer.

And the responsive project has paid off.

"It's working," Brown said. "Tablet conversion is up 50 percent year-on-year. Mobile conversion is up more than that. Tablet conversion is about a point behind desktop."

Brown was previously boss of online at department store John Lewis and ran the multi-channel offering for DIY store B&Q. The approaches these brands had to online were very different to that taken by MandM Direct, he said.

"The real challenge of working for an online business in a big corporate is that you spend a lot of time educating and evangelising about how the customer experience is changing. The challenge is around stock and store footprint.

"The real challenge for a John Lewis-type company is that most of the customer is invisible to them. Pureplays are very good at using data to drive decision-making. Big retailers are more influenced by [existing] systems," said Brown.

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