John Lewis may have more than 150 years of retailing history to its name, but the UK department store is still learning lots of lessons about mobile commerce. Speaking at this week’s Mobile Shopping Europe conference in London, Tom Rooney, mobile product manager for the 48-store merchant, shared some of the lessons John Lewis has learned after six years of mcommerce efforts.
“Mobile shopping journeys are complicated,” Rooney said, pointing out that prepurchase research is increasingly conducted both offline and online. About 40% of John Lewis’ purchases happen digitally, with half of those being transacted via mobile devices.
Moreover, around 40% of the retailer’s overall web traffic comes from smartphones. During the 2016 Christmas season, smartphone visits overtook desktop traffic to John Lewis’ website for the first time, Rooney said.
Looking at mobile devices more closely, Rooney pointed out that consumer usage differs between smartphones and tablets. Historically, John Lewis has seen greater smartphone activity in the morning and during business hours, but more tablet traffic—and higher conversion rates on the device—in the evenings. But Rooney also said tablet traffic is beginning to slow, as post-work shopping on smartphones becomes more common.
Meanwhile, page design is becoming more critical, as consumers go directly from search results or brands’ social media posts to product pages. “The product page is the new homepage,” said Rooney, as exemplified by the fact that just 30% of John Lewis’ website visits now start on its homepage. So traditional homepage elements—such as brand positioning—need to be incorporated into internal pages, too.
Apps are another evolving area. According to Rooney, they are the retailer’s highest converting sales channel—an unsurprising accomplishment, considering apps are typically downloaded by a company’s most loyal customers. Apps are also the most appropriate place to add special features like barcode scanners, digital receipts and virtual loyalty cards, Rooney said. But he cautioned companies to “avoid solutions without problems, and learn to say no” when considering adding elements to their ecommerce efforts.
“Not all tech is useful,” Rooney said, warning merchants not to jump to trendy technologies like beacons before meeting customers’ more pressing expectations. He advised retailers to listen to shoppers about their wants, look to see what’s working—or not working—for the competition, and think about what developments like smart devices will mean in the future.