In this 2013 interview we discuss mobile strategy including responsive web design (RWD) and how to attribute value with Jeremy Fennell, Director of Multichannel at Dixons Retail. He reveals how Dixons Retail anticipate, attribute value and cater to increasingly complex customer journeys that see users shifting not only from one device to another, but also from physical stores to online and back again.

As the UK's largest specialist multichannel electrical retailer, Dixons Retail needs to be available to its customers wherever and whenever they want its products. When Jeremy Fennell, the company’s Director of Multichannel, saw forecasts around the growth in users accessing the Dixons site from mobile phones and tablets, he and his team took action. They relaunched Dixons’ web presence using responsive web design (RWD) so the site adjusts images, layouts and content visibility across all screen sizes and orientations to seamlessly deliver optimal user experience no matter how and where it is being viewed. With customer journeys increasingly spanning multiple environments and devices, Dixons seized the opportunity to develop more refined ways of attributing value as well.

Peter Fitzgerald: Can you tell us a little about trends that you’re seeing in what customers are doing online and how that plays out in store visits?

Jeremy Fennell: It’s no secret that online shopping is growing. We’ve been through an interesting journey. Two years ago we used to have an internet business and a stores business and treat the two things completely separately. We would traditionally monitor how much of our sales were going through the website and how much were going through stores in a way that two separate businesses would, with separate marketing teams and separate trading teams. But it’s become clear over time that it has become the same customer.

We are a multichannel retailer and so we find that in 80% of the cases people shopping in the stores have been on the website before they get there anyway. Most of the people shopping online have some association with the stores, such as collecting the product from the store as opposed to having a home delivery. Actually, 10% of our home delivery sales are transacted online from within the store. The whole thing is completely integrated. Our web business is intertwined with our store business, and we see the two as one.

PF: With mobile devices and tablets do you see growth in terms of traffic and transactions?

JF: Traffic to the site continues to grow and this year (2013) has been up in excess of 30% year over year. That is a phenomenal stat, but within that the mix of devices has changed phenomenally. This time last year, just under a third of our traffic was coming from mobile and tablet, and that had grown from double the year before. This year about 45% of our traffic is coming from those two devices. So it really is a linear growth pattern, to which point we expect it to be well in excess of 50% by the end of the year. So it’s an amazing change in device access to the site at the same time that we are seeing a phenomenal growth of traffic.

PF: How do you then go about making the experience seamless for customers across devices and from store to online?

JF: When we saw this trend coming I can remember my team coming to me and I said, “What do you think it will be like in a year or two years’ time?” They showed me a chart and said, “Here is what the history is and here is where we think it is going to go.” And it was just literally a straight line to 50% and then more. So we took the decision when we were redesigning the site two years ago to go with a responsive design approach. The reason we did that was because we recognised that more people were going to come on mobile devices than on desktop devices. We recognised that the customer is, in many cases, the same customer when they are out and about as they are at home. And so we recognised that we would get more than one touch point to the site through different devices, and wanted to make sure everybody got the same experience.

PF: What would you say have been the benefits of the RWD approach?

JF: Responsive design turns out to have been very successful for numerous reasons really. Take it from a customer’s perspective; we are a relatively low-frequency retailer. People come to us for advice, to research products, to look at and understand categories, to understand what they should be purchasing, and to either get a home delivery or go into a store. And if they are doing that first at home on a desktop, then on the way to the store on a tablet, then in the store on a mobile, it is important for us that they get the same information. They see the same promotions, they see the same look and feel and get consistency of information throughout. And responsive design gave us that.

Internally it’s been good for the business because it means I’ve got one team designing the site. They start mobile first, which is a good way of making sure your mobile experience is optimised. The principal thing for us it that it is about customer experience.

PF: Have your marketing and media mix changed to accommodate these increasingly complex user journeys taking place across devices?

JF: We clearly see a different behaviour pattern between mobile and tablet, and so have changed the designs slightly and marketed accordingly. Let me explain what I mean by that. Mobile is very much “out and about” – people out on the street, on the bus, on the train, in the car. They are doing mobile things, so looking for store locators, looking to reserve the product and find it when they get there. Nearly twice as many reservations come from mobile devices as desktop devices because these customers are on the way. In other words, they have done their research, they know what they are looking for and are going in. Whereas tablet is completely different; we see that tablet is effectively a home device. It has a good conversion rate, with people browsing through the site to finish. Invariably traffic is increasing after 7pm in the evening. If we advertise on TV we see a sharp spike in tablet traffic, implying that people are on the sofa using the device to browse, shop and do as they probably would have done on a laptop before.

PF: How do you attribute value, for example in journeys that begin on mobile devices but culminate in a visit to the store?

JF: We have spent quite a lot of time and effort on mapping, the store locator and experience. We have done some work in Solihull, Aylesbury and Bluewater where we have actually had people in to do street view mapping of the inside of our stores for a bit of fun really. But actually the principal thing is about making sure people understand where the store is and what’s in the store when they get there. What product mix do we have, what is the layout of the store, what should the customer expect?

Then around marketing our goal is to understand which channels we should market to at what specific periods in time, and also how the marketing mix works together. So if someone is watching TV and we are advertising on TV, then our search becomes more effective, rather than the other way round. We are looking to overlap media spend and overlap econometrics as well. The way we attribute value to marketing is no longer necessarily on advertise, click, purchase, convert and therefore profit. It is actually longer term now, which is about value for researching and then how to attribute value to offline purchase back to online search. We've done quite a lot of work around that and have changed our marketing mix considerably as a result.

PF: What does the future hold for the Dixons mobile strategy?

JF: We see an increasing conversion rate from search ads that are targeted to users on mobile phones, so we will continue to put more investment into that area. We have done a lot of work on our websites around making them multichannel and understanding the multichannel experience. But increasingly now we will look at the finer end – the user experience, the checkout – and put a lot more effort into our development around that. That will be different for mobile, for tablet and for desktop. But we will stick with the same principle, which is we design mobile first. If that’s where the most customers are going to end up seeing us – which it will be by the end of this year – then we will focus our web development on mobile and then work it back from there, optimising it for a tablet customer that is at home and a desktop customer that is in a more traditional experience.

The next thing is around how we put our media mix together, based on the device that you are using, based on the time that you are using it, based on the overlap. So if someone is watching TV between 7 and 9pm, that’s when I’m going to get the highest return on search. How can I work with that? How can I work on the message that I put to them? How can I work on the synergies of what they are seeing on the television and what they are seeing on the device? I think we will see a lot more tie-up in the content that we are using. At the moment it is about optimising the spend. How do I optimise the content so that what they see on the device plays off what they are seeing on the TV?

The other two big things for us are location and personalisation. For example, when you’re out and about, how do I target search and media spend by location? Then when people are logged into my website or I know who they are through other means, personalisation gives me the opportunity to target them based on who they are, where they are, what they have shopped on before and what they have looked at before. We can be far more targeted to the individual rather than the demographic.