It has been almost a year since BHS, the collapsed high street retailer, made an unexpected comeback in the entirely online form of BHS.com.
The initial announcement was met by a great deal of scepticism, from myself included. Naysayers argued that BHS.com was launching at a time of increased competition in the market, with brands like John Lewis shifting away from bricks and mortar establishments and retargeting their efforts into omnichannel technology. And that’s not to mention the fierce competition faced from native etailers such as ASOS and Boohoo.com which know a thing or two about reaching customers online.
However, BHS.com has defied the odds and has made a remarkable comeback, reporting a 35% spike in sales during its second quarter. Just how has the etailer succeeded in spectacularly reversing its fortune?
Managing director Kevan Mallinder recently explained how adopting a start-up mentality helped fuel growth, approaching decisions thinking “if they wouldn’t do it, then neither should we”. Womenswear saw the biggest rise, with a 350% surge in sales for which Mallinder credited “better products” and “more focus”.
This time last year, I predicted that employing an intelligent data strategy would either make or break BHS.com, and it appears that this was correct. No longer tied to its physical stores, BHS.com now has the resources to invest more directly into more sophisticated data analysis and segmentation techniques to communicate with its customers, both old and new.
It has succeeded in enticing a significant proportion of its previous customers to its website, with a third of current customers being “returners” from the good old days. But more can be done; the company should continue to target “old” customers, to bolster numbers and retain the all-important brand legacy. This can be achieved by utilising existing data and offering a tailored service based on information the customer has previously shared.
It’s also important for BHS.com to recognise that its customer base and demographic has changed. It must get a handle on this, and fast, in order to convert new customers to repeat customers, making sure they keep coming back for more. When first-time customers agree to share their data, BHS.com needs to be transparent on how it is used, and demonstrate the value in this exchange.
It would be difficult to deny the initial success of BHS.com, in what is an increasingly competitive market. The company should be proud of its efforts but will need to work hard to continue its growth. Using data to attract new customers and retain existing customers will prove vital, in a market where customer expectations are higher than ever.
Scott Logie is customer engagement director at REaD Group
Data strategy will be the make or break of BHS.com