As mobile shopping becomes an increasingly crucial retail component, one of the most interesting ways to view mobile strategy is from the cusp of its development. While already actively engaging customers through social media, Lord & Taylor is about to take its main site and mobile platform into the future. We sat down with Brendan Hoffman, the venerable department store’s CEO, to talk about Lord & Taylor’s social media and mobile strategy, how they’re using them to converse with their customers now, and where they’re going next.
The High Low: To begin, can you tell us how Lord & Taylor uses social media to better serve its customers?
Brendan Hoffman: We’re trying to use it to reach out to a younger customer as well as have peer-to-peer conversations. We want to keep them updated on trends and promotions, and we also try to ask the customers questions and learn more about them. And of course, if we have a snowstorm like at the end of October, we use social media to communicate information like store closings. Meanwhile, last year on Facebook, we let customers help determine Lord & Taylor’s Christmas windows, by having them submit their favourite holiday memories. So we’re using social media in a variety of ways.
The iconic department store recently introduced Lord & Taylor Mobile, allowing customers to get text alerts on news and promotions.
HL: Likewise, how is the department store employing a mobile strategy to help shoppers?
BH: Well, we started an SMS text program, which now has over 100,000 users. It’s our fastest growing communication channel, and we just launched it a few months ago. It allows customers to receive the latest news and coupon codes in the store to their mobile devices.
We’ve also done some things with prom, like allowing younger customers to upload the dresses they’re thinking about wearing, and compare them with friends [in conjunction with the style site Fashism]. This helps them make sure no one wears the same dress.
And on Fashion’s Night Out, we had our customers’ favourite pictures displayed in our 5th Avenue windows, which they submitted via Facebook and email. So overall, we’re still learning, but we recognise that [social media engagement] is an important part of the customer experience.
HL: In what ways has the brick-and-mortar store itself changed in order to meet the needs of tech-savvy consumers?
BH: I don’t think it has changed yet, though certain things will evolve that way. We haven’t quite gotten there yet, so we might not be the first ones. We might end up learning from others who are more aggressive than we are.
HL: Do customers ever use Lord & Taylor’s site while shopping in-store? If not, would you like them to?
BH: They don’t yet! We’re actually re-platforming our main site in the spring, and this will ultimately better interface with mobile. We’re hoping by this time next year we’ll have a rich mobile experience in terms of shopping.
HL: Can you tell us about your strategy for getting in-store shoppers engaged with Lord & Taylor’s social media presence?
BH: We try to make our customers aware of the fact that they can reach us in the digital world. Certainly the 100,000-plus shoppers who have signed up for the mobile program are engaged. And now that we’re in contact with them, we’re able to keep a conversation going with them. As we feel better about our digital presence we’ll make it more prevalent in our offline ads. What we want is to make the customer aware of how our digital presence is evolving.
Last spring Lord & Taylor partnered with Fashism on a program called Got Dibs, which allowed high school girls to “claim” their prom dresses from the department store.
HL: Vice versa, how do you bring social media-engaged fans over to Lord & Taylor itself (either into the store or to the company’s online retail)?
BH: Well, with prom, for example, we had a Prom-A-Palooza event in-store, in tandem with the online program. So what we’re doing is offering cross channel promotions. Wherever our customers are, in-store, online, or via mobile, there’s a way to connect with Lord & Taylor, even if right now the experience isn’t equal across all the mobile channels.
HL: Lastly, can you tell us about the store’s social media and/or mobile developments still to come?
BH: I can’t give you any specifics just yet, as we’re learning more about what this re-platforming will allow us to do. We’re actually not re-platforming because of mobile technology, but because our site has outgrown its current form. But the added benefit to re-platforming is taking advantage of current technology and coming up with new opportunities to stay connected, particularly on the mobile device. I really think mobile will be crucial in the next 10 years, and going into the future.
Also, we have such a broad inventory across multiple vendors. What we want to do is curate that for individuals, so for instance, what I see is different from what you see, based on our various preferences. When it comes to re-platforming, over the next twelve to 20-four months, we’re looking forward to seeing some exciting progress.
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