The past two years have not been easy for eCommerce businesses, but many sectors performed pretty well. One such sector is the Home Accessories market, which grew 135% between November 2019 and November 2021, according to IRP Commerce data. (IRP Commerce eCommerce Market Data)
For the 11th post of our CRO Insights series, we have David Kohn, former Customer and eCommerce Director at the much-loved home interiors brand Heal’s.
David started in retail over 30 years ago in strategy and business planning with Woolworths. Over the years he has worked for several well-known UK retailers in commercial and leadership roles.
In his recent roles, he has focused on digital and marketing. He was with Heal’s for over six years. Let’s hear what he has to say about the trends, challenges, and opportunities for the market in general and the brand in particular.
Lockdown saw a massive increase in online traffic and in customers’ willingness to purchase through digital channels. While things are now shifting back a little towards stores as people venture out more, there’s no doubt that a permanent rebalance has occurred.
Looking at more specific trends, one of the big pluses in our business has been to see our stores and digital come closer together. Our live chat solution, whereby online customers can get advice from in-store specialists, has been a big driver of this.
Our 3D product visualisation tools have also been useful, not only for online users, but also for in-store teams demonstrating our many fabric options.
In terms of tools, we use SessionCam from Glassbox, where the struggle score feature is useful for identifying blockages or problems. We’ve also tried Usabilla, although this was of little or no use to us.
Perhaps our best source of data, though, is our in-store teams. They’re constantly on our site and identifying little niggles and inaccuracies that no-one else would spot. We also get a lot of direct feedback from our Customer Service team who tell us of any customer issues raised.
We keep a dedicated internal email address for issues and all complaints are reviewed within minutes of being raised.
All the principal marketing channels are becoming more costly and are likely to become more so as Apple and Google tighten up their privacy rules. This will make new customer acquisition less economical, and so will put a bigger onus on retention.
Ultimately, customer retention, and to a broader extent brand reputation, is about understanding what value add you really bring to the customer and ensuring that you deliver it every time. The best brands already do this but there can be no complacency.
In many online sectors, the next 12 months are likely to be tough as customer spending shifts back to sectors that have suffered through the pandemic, in particular travel and entertainment.
Opportunities, though, will also come to those brands that understand people’s fundamental wants and needs and are clear about how they’re able to deliver against these.
Looking forward, I expect to see a shift to companies that exhibit a higher purpose than just selling a product. For example, a real commitment to the environment or to the communities in which they trade. People will always buy from brands that make them feel better about themselves.
Our focus at Heal’s is always on making our product the very best that it can be and supporting this with helpful service and advice. We want customers to be able to enjoy ‘the Heal’s life’ surrounded by beautiful furniture and homewares that work and that last.
eCommerce is a key channel in bringing this proposition to life. We look constantly at how we can make the digital experience smoother, but the key to our success going forward will be how well we can communicate the great quality, design, and service that we offer and create a compelling vision to customers of ‘the Heal’s life’.