In the fast fashion space, retailers release affordable, on-trend products quickly throughout the year. Retailers at the other end of the spectrum, however, are focusing on creating lasting brand experiences to drive sales and loyalty.
Bebe, the women’s contemporary brand and retailer, for example, is on the fast track to success following its recent brand repositioning, which focuses on digital innovation and omnichannel customer experiences. During the summer, Bebe unveiled new mobile offerings for iOS and Android devices. But now, the retailer is focusing on creating a rich, omnichannel experience that is fueled by content and new in-store technology.
For Bebe, retail success is “all about knowing where consumers want to shop, how they want to shop,” and creating a “smarter more fluid shopping experience,” according to Anthony McLoughlin, VP of Interactive Marketing for Bebe. “We’re not fast fashion, and we’re not here to compete with the H&M and Forever 21s of the world. We’re a brand that is about unique designs and experiences that you can’t find anywhere else.”
The “new Bebe” targets 25- to 35-year-old, female consumers who shop multiple brands, according to McLoughlin. “It’s all about us being part of their consideration set and being their endemic choice for contemporary fashion.”
Plans were initially put into motion following the appointment of CEO Steve Birkhold in January. Then, in May, Bebe hired Keith Keegan as SVP of Marketing. In his position, Keegan leads “all aspects of marketing and branding across all channels of the business,” according to a company announcement.
With this fresh leadership, along with new executives in digital, design and marketing positions, Bebe has embarked on a mission of revitalizing the brand experience, McLoughlin explained. “We have re-launched our e-Commerce and mobile sites, as well as our iPhone and Android apps all at the same time, which was a huge undertaking.”
Typically, the process of re-designing, re-branding and re-launching a retailer’s digital presence leads to a downturn in conversions, as your old consumers “are trying to adapt to the new taxonomy,” McLoughlin explained. In Bebe’s case, “we have seen no downturn in conversion, and overall, a massive shift to mobile.”
Prior to the new app releases, one in five consumers were accessing the brand on a smartphone or tablet, McLoughlin reported. Now, one in three shoppers are browsing and buying on their mobile devices. “We have optimized experiences to be device-specific and consumers are definitely responding.”
Mobile app downloads also have surged following the rebranding. Although majority of traffic is coming from the mobile web, the iPhone app has had the highest conversion rates and average order values, McLoughlin noted, so “our core shoppers are really using the app.”
Integrating Inventory And Content Across Channels
One of the most beneficial features of the new mobile experience is the ability to look up products and check size availability at nearby locations. This capability is one of Bebe’s latest efforts to transcend consumer expectations and become a true omnichannel organization, according to McLoughlin.
Evolving from legacy systems to integrated inventory management and allocation, Bebe has seamlessly connected the dots between mobile interactions and in-store product assortment.
“We’ve moved to a central inventory management system, which allows e-Commerce, mobile and brick-and-mortar stores to all pull from the same distribution center and ship inventory as needed,” McLoughlin explained. For the mobile product search function, “there is a threshold of inventory that has to be available in-store. That way, you don’t go to a store and find out the product you wanted is sold out, which would be a terrible experience.”
As Bebe moves toward more fluid product interactions and more flexible delivery options, such as order online, pickup in-store, the retailer also is expanding its content strategy across all channels and integrating digital experiences into stores.
“The omnichannel experience is our priority right now,” McLoughlin said. “We’ve already done work to build the backend structure through enterprise selling. Now, it’s about fulfilling the experience with content, and tying everything together into a cohesive omnichannel strategy.”
Bebe has selected a series of flagship locations nationwide to unveil a new in-store concept for the digital experience, which McLoughlin believes is a “huge component of how the brand is portrayed.” The retailer is collaborating with JWALK, a digital marketing agency, to create branded content, optimize a new content management system, and roll out an interactive in-store digital display environment.
“We’re currently using a content management system that will allow us to upload and showcase specific content in certain areas of a store,” McLoughlin said. Another goal is to integrate digital content and displays with RFID technology.
The content management tool has already been implemented and is capable of supporting the entire Bebe chain, McLoughlin reported. But the digital screens have only been added to a series of test stores nationwide. Once Bebe finalizes the new in-store concept, the team will develop a rollout plan of top stores, and then scale out to additional locations through 2014.