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Apps represent opportunity to boost service and loyalty at Clarks

Unlike many retailers that have chosen to deliver an all-encompassing transactional mobile app Clarks has taken a different route and is set to launch a series of apps that are directed at specific customer groups.By Glynn Davis


Apps represent opportunity to boost service and loyalty at Clarks

Ahead of presenting at the forthcoming Retail Bulletin 2nd Mobile Retailing Summit 2012 in London on September 26th, Nick Darby, m-commerce manager at Clarks, runs through his strategy for developing the mobile channel at shoe retailer Clarks.

“Clarks is a high service retailer and apps give us the opportunity to enhance this. We’ve identified consumer issues that are common to certain groups and we’re addressing them by developing apps to solve them. It won’t be one big sprawling app, instead we’ve gone for separate ones,” he explains.

On the production line are six apps under headings that include ‘First Shoes’, ‘Kids’ and ‘Originals’, which will be launched over the next year beginning in October. Although the apps are service-led, Darby admits the plan is “not just for straight brand-building as there will also be a commercial objective”.

Hence the First Shoes app will have a time-line whereby photos can be stored for different periods but it also incorporates a notification element that after an initial foot measuring it then indicates to the customer when the next one is due. And it will also alert them when any Sales are due.

The apps are also tied to in-store appointments as the aim is to enhance the experience in its outlets by removing queuing for users of its apps. “If you’ve been online and chosen three or four styles then the aim is that when you go into the store we’ll scan a QR code or maybe use NFC to recognise you. We want to reward this engagement by improving the experience. Mobiles are personal and they make all this possible,” says Darby.

He regards this as building loyalty through better service rather than having a points-based loyalty programme (which the company has had before) that involves an “underlying hard commercial outcome”.

By meeting the customer in-store he says the “whole experience will be joined up”, which is why he regards mobile as the “glue” between Clarks’ online store and its physical retail presence.

But by offering an improved service to smartphone users it could be seen that Clarks is to potentially alienate a major chunk of its customers. Darby disagrees, saying this is unlikely, based on the company’s research: “Our assumption was that our customers are in the older demographic and kids - where smartphone penetration is low. But it is in fact high as the children’s parents have them and our research shows our older customers also have smartphones.”

The strategy is to create apps for the iPhone and Android and in the longer term the Windows platform too as Darby says: “We’re looking at Windows and we like it but there are no handsets out there yet. As for Blackberry, we’ll probably never look at that. So we anticipate developing for the all three [of these platforms] in the future.”

As well as the six apps he says there will also be various other ad hoc releases linked to trading patterns such as the ‘Back to School’ app that he says was created for kids at Clarks to entertain them in-store, thereby leaving their parents to concentrate on the purchase. “Each has a roadmap to increase functionality so we’ll keep refreshing it to remind them to go back to it,” says Darby.

The various apps will operate alongside the group’s full website and its mobile-optimised site that was previously outsourced - and was a “re-presentation of the website” - but which has been brought in-house. A new version will be re-launched in October to coincide with the release of the first app.

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