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[Indie Interview] Annie Rose Lougher Head of Ecommerce & Strategy at Bella Freud

Customers sit at the heart of Bella Freud so it’s no surprise they are growing. Next month, Annie Rose will sit on a panel at our… View Article

INTERVIEWS

[Indie Interview] Annie Rose Lougher Head of Ecommerce & Strategy at Bella Freud

Customers sit at the heart of Bella Freud so it’s no surprise they are growing.

Next month, Annie Rose will sit on a panel at our upcoming Omnichannel Futures 22 event. We sit down with Bella Freuds ecommerce and strategy champion Annie to find out how to build engaging customer experiences and drive market share.

Can you tell us a bit about your background?

After completing a degree in Fashion Design at Falmouth University, I got an internship at Vivienne Westwood in the wholesale department, and I had the time of my life – it was so much fun! I then went to Burberry followed by Dutch fashion designer Michael van der Ham where I was assigned to working on their website. This was my first introduction to ecommerce. I then spent a few years at M&S in the buying department and then in the product team at Triumph Lingerie. Five years ago, I joined Bella Freud.

Working in a smaller business suits me, because it’s exciting and innovative and you’re able to really see how the nuts and bolts fit together. I also worked at Alexa Chung for a year too, it falls within the same investment group as Bella Freud and I loved it, but I’m back at Bella full time and in a more strategic role which looks at the brand across the board as well as ecommerce. This is a great move for me because ecom is a just one element, or tool, of a wider solution to build a successful brand. It’s nice to be able to effect changes and really steer it.

How’s business at Bella Freud?

Fortunately, very good. The ecom side of the business has increased 5-fold since I joined, so massive growth in the 4-year period. When I joined the business, we were very focussed on wholesale and there was a lot to do on the ecommerce side. Over the years, we’ve changed site, changed platform, brought in new agencies and introduced digital marketing. We’ve also curated and created content that’s really made a difference, it’s been hard work and a lot of fun. We’re now led by data and our customers habits which is important. That’s the amazing thing about ecom – you never know everything, there is always something new coming along, I find that very satisfying.

The pandemic really accelerated our growth online because it gave us the opportunity to focus our thinking. One area we looked at nurturing was customer acquisition and so far, it’s proved to be a big success. We’re using what we’ve learnt about our customers and building on it all the time. Fashion and design rooms are often very opinion led, we’re not, we’re learning to lead by data and customer habits and that is both exciting and of course important.

Maintaining a premium customer experience is no easy feat, what’s the secret?

We’ve really streamlined the customer journey and looked at the functionality across the experience from the online session, checkout, shipping and after sales. We also introduced digital marketing in 2019 which we hadn’t done before and not only saw great revenue return but brand awareness too.

We did lots of little changes that made small percentage improvements but led to great growth. At the heart of our strategy, we really want to make sure we don’t loose sight of why we’re doing what we’re doing. There is a fine line between best practice UX and the brand. Bella Freud is not just about the clothes, our customers buy into Bella Freud as a whole – the aesthetic and the lifestyle that she creates.

Understanding who your customers are is so important. We had a clear demographic – typically aged 35 to 50 – and we wanted to expand that. As we are successful in the gifting market, we introduced new home and lifestyle products into the range as well as entry price point products and Klarna. We can now see our demographic is levelling out across 18- to 65-year-olds. Customer retention is so important to us so finding younger customers and being able to offer them products through a lifetime is fantastic. We have an exceptionally good customer return rate which we’re really proud of and we’re doing a lot to understand what our customers want from the brand.

What’s on the horizon for Bella Freud in 2022?

Storytelling –
A big trend for 2022 in retail is going to be story telling. You need to give customers a reason to buy from you and this is where storytelling fits in. We’re building a bridge between the editorial and the store to really tie together the commentary that surrounds our products and brand. We’re also moving away from the standard ‘lookbook’ which a lot of brands have used for years. Our content creation is changing because we find that with social media, customers want something new and exciting. If they are scrolling and you’ve not got anything new to show them, the engagement drops off, so we’ll be doing smaller shoots for fresh content more regularly.

Sustainability –
Sustainability will be an important thing moving forward. Especially for our younger customers who are very conscious of sustainable products. You can’t do everything overnight and as a small business this takes time and cost, it’s also important that we do it properly. We already do quite a lot in this space, but we do need to build it into our story telling.

Supply chain operations –
As with most retailers, optimising our operations to maximise our return is critical right now with the industry wide challenges around Covid, Brexit, logistics and shipping etc. Our supply chain will be a big focus for us in the year ahead.

The omnichannel experience –
 We’ll be talking about that at the upcoming TRB event in March but in short, we’re putting our bricks-and-mortar store on to Shopify POS so that we can offer a more streamlined experience to our customers. We’re also looking at automation so we’re connecting with our customer at every touchpoint to ensure we’re continually learning whilst improving what we offer to keep them coming back.

Don’t miss Annie on the 9th of February at Omnichannel Futures 2022 where she will share more insight on a panel with likeminded brands including Pour Moi, My Beauty Matches and Findologic.

Book your free ticket here.

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