Debenhams’ Progressive Web App boosts speed, conversions and revenue

While Debenhams’ mobile traffic was on the rise, mobile conversions weren’t growing at the same rate. To take advantage of the annual peak trading season, the brand needed to undergo a digital transformation. The team decided to start by improving the brand’s mobile solution. With help from Google engineers and mobile specialists, Debenhams did just that.

About Debenhams
Fashion, beauty and home retailer
Leading international multi-channel brand
Over 240 stores across 27 countries
Goals
Improve mobile customer experience
Accelerate shoppers’ path to purchase
Approach
Partnered with Sapient.Publicis
Built a Progressive Web App (PWA) using the Mobify Platform
Results
40% increase in mobile revenue
20% increase in conversions
Above-market online growth

With mobile representing 57% of all traffic to Debenhams, investing in customers’ mobile experience was vital. “If we didn't improve conversions and traffic continued to shift, our digital and overall growth would slow”, explains Debenhams Head of Digital Product Jim Hingston. The strategy they developed was to concentrate on speed and building a fast path to purchase for shoppers.

Because the mobile web was attracting more customers than the Debenhams app, the team made a strategic decision to build a Progressive Web App (PWA) experience for users rather than maintaining the app. “We decided to launch a PWA because it’s driven by the customer experience, it’s credible technology, it offers an app-like experience on the web and it offers the best performance”, Hingston says.

“We decided to launch a PWA because it’s driven by the customer experience, it’s credible technology, it offers an app-like experience on the web and it offers the best performance.”

– Jim Hingston, Head of Digital Product, Debenhams

By using the Mobify Platform and partnering with Sapient.Publicis, Debenhams overcame internal resource limitations to launch their new PWA in just four months. The approach also made it possible to separate their mobile customer experience initiatives from the backend, which put them in position for further digital transformation projects down the line.

How it all added up

Debenhams monitored conversions, revenue, funnel performance, speed and bounce rates – all of which improved since the PWA’s launch. The team measured the user journey time from browsing to purchase and found it was two to four times faster. With these speed improvements, Debenhams also saw a spike in purchase at commuter times – commuter browsers were turned into commuter buyers. During the peak trading period, Debenhams’ mobile revenue overtook desktop revenue. Overall, the PWA helped to deliver a 40% increase in mobile revenue and a 20% increase in conversions, which has driven above-market online growth.

"Debenhams also saw a spike in purchase at commuter times – commuter browsers were turned into commuter buyers."

Making the case for growth

For the team, getting commitment for the ambitious project was absolutely critical. “Initially it was difficult, especially with such new technology”, Hingston explains. “But we got excellent buy-in from the board and the senior leadership from early on. The project was so important for Debenhams that we gathered enough momentum to get it over the line.”

Helped in part by the increase in conversions from the new PWA, today the C-suite views digital as the growth engine for the business. The plan is to continue to focus on delivering a great customer experience via their mobile website while adding other innovative technologies. They’ve already extended their PWA to tablet and next will extend it to desktop to create a unified frontend experience on the Mobify Platform. As well as considering web push notifications, they’re currently testing Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP), too.

"The C-suite views digital as the growth engine for the business."

Inspiration for transformation

Three groups of challenges tend to prevent brands from reaching their true mobile potential. Brands claim to be mobile-first, but still have a desktop-first culture and process; development teams are swamped with fixing the past and have very little time to work on optimising for the future; and marketing and product teams know that delivering better experiences than their competitors is important for business, but struggle to translate this into a business case.

Debenhams’ story demonstrates that it’s possible to overcome these hurdles in a short timeframe: they doubled down on mobile, made the decision to shift focus from old technology to new and grabbed the attention of high-level decision-makers to gain the resources that were required to make a real difference to the business at a key moment in time.

To find success for your business as the Debenhams team has done, start with a few important questions for your teams and leadership to answer.

  • What’s blocking our brand from being brilliant online? Are we lacking a mobile-first culture? Are our teams focused on the wrong issues? Are we lacking the data we need to make a business case for change?
  • What would it take to remove those blockers? Better ownership across departments? Hiring more people? Or would an outside opinion help?
  • How big an opportunity would brilliance be? Is it vitally important to the future of our business? Or are we viewing it simply as a basic that’s nice to have?
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