Mobile-first, athleisure and V label drive Shop Direct to record Christmas
Shop Direct, which operates digital department stores Very.co.uk, Littlewoords.com, and VeryExclusive.co.uk, on Monday reported record Christmas sales for the fifth consecutive year.
The pureplay e-tailer continues to benefit from the rise of mobile shopping, achieving group sales growth of 9% during the seven weeks to 23 December.
Sales via mobile devices accounted for 68% of the group’s online sales, with the performance underpinned by Very.co.uk which delivered sales growth of 19% year-on-year.
Fashion performed strongly across the sites, up 16% on the previous year supported by the launch in September of own-brand label V by Very and the popularity of athleisure products, with ladies sportswear alone growing by 83%.
The strong Christmas trading performance was partly attributed to the e-tailer’s range of payment options. 94% of purchases were made using options to spread the cost, illustrating how much consumers value options such as ‘Buy now, pay later’ and flexible payments.
“We helped millions of families afford the brands they wanted this Christmas. It’s what makes us special and gave us another record festive period,” said Shop Direct CEO Alex Baldock.
“Shoppers chose convenience; being able to shop via smartphone was top of their Christmas lists. Most of the growth in retail is coming from online, and the growth in online is coming from mobile. We continue to put mobile first – and it paid off this Christmas."
The company said mobile traffic increased by 30% during the period, with smartphone being by far the most dominant and fastest growing channel. Sales via smartphone made up 55% of online sales on Very.co.uk and increased by 45% year-on-year.
In the seven weeks, Shop Direct launched Very Assistant, a WhatsApp-style CUI platform for customer service. It had also previously launched iOS and Android apps for Littlewoods, and revamped its homepage to display individual customers’ favourite product categories based on their browsing and purchasing histories.
In 2017, the e-tailer will continue to improve its personalisation capabilities through artificial intelligence. Plans include the introduction of an AI-fuelled CUI platform which will allow customers to ask questions in their own words within a chat environment.
Alex Baldock said the group plans to start using the power of AI to democratise personal shopping. “E-tailers have already overtaken stores when it comes to convenience. Now AI-fuelled technology like chatbots and virtual reality has the potential to leave bricks and mortar behind in offering the best personal service. We believe it’s the next big shift in retail and financial services, and we plan to be at the vanguard.”
Despite challenging market conditions, the company forecasts another record year of sales and profits in 2017.
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