Presentatie Corrine Suchy, Urban Outfitters

Presentatie Corrine Suchy, Urban Outfitters

Corinne SuchyOp What’s Going on in (R)etailing 2014?! sprak Corrine Suchy, Global Director of Ecommerce van Urban Outfitters. Zij spak daar over: What’s driving the growth of Urban Outfitters’ successful eCommerce Channel? How do you integrate eCommerce with Physical Stores.


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I am Corinne Suchy and a global e-commerce structure for Urban Outfitters, wanting to share a couple of things about our company and then more specifically share how we talk about the omnichannel experience and how we look to bridge that divide between stores that we have and then the e-commerce business that we run as well.

Some history, Urban Outfitters was actually founded in 1970, so we’ve been in this business for 45 years. That’s Jack Hen, a photo of a newspaper showing him in the first store 45 years ago in Philadelphia. It gives you some sense as you saw in the video that we try to create very different spaces, so a lot of the stores that we have are very open, are very much characteristic of the building that they’re in. We try to maintain a lot of that and keep a lot of that differentiation. There are no two stores of ours that are alike and I’ll talk about that again in one second.

This is part of our home office in Philadelphia and if you see the connection between stores and the office environment that we work in, that’s not a mistake. There’s something very much that we get from living and breathing in the space that we also present to our customers.

Some of our store staff. You can see that they really embody the brand and I’m very proud of that. One of the differentiators for our stores that each of them has a visual merchandising team that actually goes and creates the displays that you see. The setup that you see on the Kalverstraat in Amsterdam is very different from anything that you would see in London, is very different from anything that you would see in the US. We actually play a lot on that creativity of our store staff. They’re very talented and we think that play out into the brand and gives a very differentiated feel for our stores.

Urban Outfitters has always positioned itself as an experiential retailer. The concept of that I think is most visible in the fact that we address 18 to 28 year olds, that’s our target demographic, a little bit higher in Europe. We care about every thing that someone in that demographic cares about. If it’s clothing of course we care about that, but we care deeply about arts and music and culture and everything that when you are that age very much makes up your existence. This is an example of a music program we run called After Fest, so we regularly put on concerts as well.

This is something that we mention every once in awhile, just to give the positioning of our branding and to tell you something about it. Urban Outfitters doesn’t have a logo which is one of those things that seems a bit strange, but if there’s an art student that day who wants to make up a logo and we’ll put it on the website, that’s no problem. It tells you something for a company that has been in existence for 45 years what that’s meant. It’s meant that Urban Outfitters is not one particular thing. It very much is an embodiment of an experience and something that is always evolving and always changing. It’s just one of those points, we like to think about it and refer to, because we’re not that thing. We’re very much about I love the experience that we present to our customers.

Urban Outfitters globally is part of URBN Inc., that’s a $ 3 billion company. Urban Outfitters specifically is about half of that business and is it’s names sake. We operate online at, ship to 131 countries and of course run desktop, tablet and mobile experiences as well. We have specific country websites in the UK and France and in Germany.

What I want to talk about today specifically is why mobile changed that game. If you were someone who had a traditional store positioning and then had an online position, what was it about mobile, because there was something, there were 3 things that I propose, that actually changed that game for us.

The number one thing for us is that mobile demands contextual relevance. What do I mean by that? I mean that when we were doing e-commerce a decade ago, we were pretty sure that if you were at a computer, you were sitting at a desk in a chair at work or at home and that told us what context you were in. When we went to have phones, we suddenly had no idea where you were. We had no idea if you were at home, if you were on the go, if you were in our store at the time and that’s the piece that fundamentally changed things for us. Mobile is nothing without context and so we can use the Google Maps example and we can say it’s really helpful to look up the address of how to get here to the Amsterdam Arena. Much more helpful to be able to tell you my location at the hotel and figure out that’s going to take 13 minutes to drive here. So even having that context and so you hear it again and again and again, it’s our word of the year, that we talk about from what context is someone coming to us. So that was the key differentiator that changed to game for mobile and especially when a customer could be not just visiting us on our website, but visiting us while they were on the store on the website and how do we know that. How do we know if they are in a hurry, how do we know if they’ve got a whole lot of entertainment time and they’re just flipping through. That piece and how we get to that, it’s not solved yet, but that’s the fundamental piece that we spend a lot of our time thinking about.

The other thing is that, and you heard it before, mobile made things personal. If you think that people don’t have an emotional connection with their phone you’re wrong. How many people have to sleep aside their phone every night, so you heard that. What it means for our customers is that if you were on a PC you were probably hold up somewhere in the basement. May that eventually evolved up to an office space or on the couch with a laptop. The difference with a phone is that it’s out with in the existence with you and out living with you and doing all of the things that you’re doing. That’s enabling people to share, to collect, to get information and that’s what we see that people want to do. They want to share their lives and they can do that on a phone and that’s a very personal connection. Take someone’s phone, look at the apps that they have and I think you learn a lot about them.

The other thing is that mobile fundamentally changed how people shop and so for e-commerce business that’s very interesting. Mobile conversion rates are typically much lower than PC and tablet. Is that a bad thing, I don’t know, depends on what people were doing. If people were just there to look at your store information, that’s not a bad thing. May be they headed on into the store after that, so there are a number of things that we talk about when we talk about why and how that mobile has changed that shopping pattern. Number one it’s non linear, so we used to have again someone sitting at a PC, potentially direct loading your site, typing it in, browsing, putting some things in the shopping basket, checking out, gone. It just doesn’t happen any more, so there’s very much this nonlinear path that we talk about where a customer may be on their phone and put something in their basket, they may complete that purchase later on a desktop in the store, because they think that that’s safer or that’s just convenient for them. That variation and trying to keep track of customers across what is now a nonlinear shopping experience is very challenging.

There’s also a time shift in here, where you don’t just sit down and complete the task any more. We’re so distracted by a text message that we just got or having to check our social network again that we interrupt what was our shopping experience at the time. So we talk about not only as a nonlinear, but it’s also time shifted. The challenge, if you’re a retailer like us is that this isn’t an afflux model. We don’t ask you at the door of our store or at the front door of our website to sign in and tell us who you are and say: ‘now we know and now you can come in and we’ll pick up right where your left off last time’. So how do we keep track and how do I know that that was your laptop plus your phone and that’s you showing up in the store. That’s a big challenge and that’s one that plagues us, keeps us busy in the day.

Not only nonlinear and time shifted and that expectation of a persistent state, but also all of those little micro interactions. When I was giving the example of may be that customer on her phone is just checking up our store information and then headed on to the store. That’s okay and so we’re trying to understand those little pieces of the business and the things that customers do in that path to ultimately reach and get to a sale, are really important. Backing up and seeing the whole picture of that is really important and that demands a different kind of capability than we had before, especially when you are in separate store and retail teams.

If you’re a retailer like us and you had e-commerce and stores, there are 3 things that you do. You say: I’m going to connect all of the separate systems that I have, I’m going to rework all of the organisational structures that I have and the silo’s between the two of them and I’m going to bring everything together. I’m going all the data together and all the people together, I’m going to make omni chanel investments. In the US and Europe we offer a pick pack and ship, it means that we free up inventory that’s in our stores and make it available for all online customers. That’s a good idea, so we do all that work and then we’re may be just at the base level of what our customers are now expecting of us. Of course they expect that we know who they are in the store and online. They don’t care, they don’t remember which one they shopped at, they don’t care that we are traditionally divided in silo’s. So that is what makes this challenge particularly interesting for the retailers. You think that they’re up to their game, welcome, I think we just got started.

The thing that retailers have started to dabble with are just a few of the different technologies, so iBeacons you know about of course, endless isles, so that you have an extended assortment of your imagery online. That is very true for us, you heard the quote that our vast widest best assortment is online and what’s in the stores is a subset of that, so we very much think of the web is being fundamental and first and largest in that sense. So offering that in stores to customers is something that other retailers are looking to do. Mobile payments no surprise, shoppable windows no surprise, but I think you see everybody dabbling in these technologies and some of them will hit, we have to dabble, we have to play around, we have to see what customers respond to. Some of them will hit, some of them won’t . The thing that we want to be very careful of is that if there’s not a point behind them, if these are just features, they will feel very empty. They’ll come across as gimmicky if there’s really no point behind them. So technology for technology’s sake is not what we’re after. You can throw touch screens into the stores if you want, you can offer mobile payments, actually that one’s a good idea. You can do that if you want, but unless there’s a point behind it, it’s not going to resonate with customers and it literally will fall flat and be a waste of some effort there.

How we think about it, that’s different from that I believe, is that when we talk about bridging the store experience and the online experience, what we’re talking about is finding that opportunity where we can create moments for customers that are both meaningful and have context. So we keep on coming back to that. The point is, doing that may involve technology and it often does, but the technology from what I was saying before is not the point, it was never the point. If there isn’t something behind it, then it won’t last.

When you hear about omni channel, you can hear about a device strategy and that’s important and it’s a piece of it. Just when we’re thinking about how do we execute on this, but it isn’t really what matters and so when we talk about omni channel, we talk about that as an experience strategy. What do you want your customers to be able to do and how do you facilitate that by mobile and make it better by mobile, because it’s very convenient and everybody has one and has a phone in their pocket. How do you do that when that’s really the point. This is just an example of some of the things that we offer to our customers that allows them to check into a store, that lets them gain early access to collections that we have. That lets them listen to our radio if that’s what they want to do. This again isn’t always about completing a shopping experience necessarily, but very much keeping them engaged within the brand. 13.30

One other example that if you happened to be in a particular area the after fest, and this one happened to be in New York, After Fest Music Events that I suggested, that if you are in one of our stores and if you purchase music, whatever restriction, you show up at a certain time, you’re one of the first 100 people, doesn’t matter, we can use mobile to offer you something like free tickets. That’s valuable, there’s something there where you’re using technology to deliver something that’s relevant to your customers.

At the point, the point being that you can use mobile to deliver to your customers what they truly value and at the time that they value it and that changes, so if you think that just become a customer walks into a store, even if they were okay with us tracking them, and we paying them with an offer that says $10 off, if that’s not the mindset that they were in, we wasted an opportunity and so you hear us keep coming back to this context and context and context and trying to understand where a person is at that time, what kind of mindset they’re in, what they would really value at that particular moment. If you don’t have that it’s like walking into literally a conversation and trying to have a lot of contacts. There’s part of it that doesn’t make sense. Throwing out offers all the time or coupons or anything like that is not really what we think about. We think about how do you, when without giving away things that are our roadmap, walk past the vinyl section that’s in our store and suddenly start to sample the soundtrack of that album. We are actually the largest seller of vinyl music in the US, so if you thought that was dead, it’s not. So opportunities like that where we can deliver interesting content or something that’s cool or we can make something happen with all of our customers just because they happen to be in the same place at the same time, those were things that we think are meaningful and differentiate us as a retailer and are really the point behind bridging any sort of omni experience.

What your customers are looking for may at that particular time be convenience, it may be rewards, it may be access, information, entertainment, any of that and knowing what that thing is at that point in time is really the key.

The other thing I want to comment on is just that mobile, is a particular moment in time. When the technology becomes a commodity, as it’s rapidly becoming, then the only thing that matters is the personality in your experience. Things like micro interactions and this is true on the web as well and the talk about that all the time, how your website feels, how your mobile site feels, how your app feels, what those interactions are, what the pacing is, what the movement is. Suddenly those things matter and not in the way that we used to think about them. Urban has always had really great store experiences and now how that translates online when it’s not just about search and a search box and about discoverability that you’ve heard earlier. So when it becomes about that, then suddenly there’s feeling involved and how do you have a great feeling. We never thought we would be talking about this online a couple of years ago, how do you have a great feeling when you’re in an experience. I do believe that when people arrive at a website or open up an app, there’s some expectation there and I’m not suggesting there’s a vulnerability, but there’s a little bit of one where people are hoping that you deliver on something, that you complete that, that you meet them on the other side of that transaction. There’s something that’s really incredible about that and if we can be there and if we can deliver on that and we can provide that feeling for customers, then they’re customers of ours and hopefully long time customers of ours until they’re 28 and they’re out of our age record.

The point is that that personality matters and right now their phones, but you keep hearing me say that technology is not the point. We all look down right now at our phones, but some time very soon that phone will be gone and then what happens, then we have to lift our heads up and we have to look at everybody in the eyes and start having conversations again and looking at the world around us in may be a way that we didn’t before. That’s sort of where our thinking is and what does that mean. Then it becomes not again about the technology, but really about the experience and Urban Outfitters, that’s something that we care very deeply about and that’s it.

Great but fast. I love what you say and we all have digital dreams and tiny little budgets. How many people are working on these types of mobile creative ideas that make customers happy?

Within the US we have 10 front end developers that sit inside the brand plus a shared services team. We’ve got another handful that sit in the UK in our London office, so let’s call it a good dozen people at any time that are working on this, plus front end developers, user experience people to envision the work flow, conceptualise it, plus the creative team and if you thought that any of those 3 people could work apart any more, they cannot. That’s very much against the effort in an amongst them, so how do you leverage it.

One of the things that does come, you have heard a lot about responsive design lately or about adaptive design. It’s one of the frameworks that we believe in. It’s a framework and should be thought of as such, but we have the same team that works on what will soon be a responsive experience across desktop, across tablet, across mobile. You have to go there in the sense that we used to know what screen size you were on, we could estimate that in some way. Now with the massive explosion in the number of devices and types of devices, particularly Android, 30.000 at last counts, trying to know what contacts the customer is in and serve up the right experience for that screen size is a challenge, so you have to get really smart, really fast about things like responsive design, about things like image management, so not serving up the same gigantic image that you would see on a huge desktop to a phone, because the connection is terrible often and trying to push the same image through the same pipe doesn’t make sense any more. So it’s the answers leverage and that’s true in the US and we actually leverage globally as well.

A lot of the examples you’ve given at least I’ve the feeling is based on some kind of push communication from you side. That would mean that it starts from the app. It’s not just me surfing to your mobile site, is that correct, is it largely driven by people who have the apps installed?

It’s both for us. We have an app that we released in the US that was more centred around the engagement component, so again the radio. Some of those pieces where you can check into stores and complete challenges and obtain some rewards. We’ve done that piece in the US, because we think that some of our best customers migrated over to the app, but mobile web is still very open to us. We think that that’s very convenient, especially if you are on the go wanting to check out our store locations, store hours, see if the item that you are interested in is in that store. We’re pushing forward on both.

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