In a recent conversation with a chief technology officer, he asserted all digital technology changes in his organisation were being led by IT and not by marketing. It made me wonder: How long a marketing function like this could survive?
With the launch of the seventh edition of Apple’s iPhone last week, it is easy to forget the smartphone device category is actually less than 10 years old.
Yet the impact of mobile as a brand communications and commerce is undeniable. And it’s a trend heavily influencing the development decisions at five-year-old online fashion retailer, The Iconic, which has adopted a mobile-first approach to how it reaches its customers.
“We’re finding the volume of fashion searches through mobile has been increasing, and about half the volume of fashion searches in Australia are happening through mobile,” its director of product, Zoe Ghani, tells CMO.
That has led to a very different approach to service development at The Iconic, which reverses the old paradigm of developing features for desktop and then shoehorning them into the mobile format.
“When we think about a new feature or an enhancement, we have to be very aware of the screen real estate on a mobile phone,” Ghani says. “We design and test it with customers within a mobile screen size, which forces us to prioritise features or elements of the page which are very important that must be fitting in a small screen, and then we do desktop as a second step.
“Sometimes we will ship them altogether, but the process of discovery and understanding of how it will manifest on the page is always done mobile first.”
That has also led to a very different experience for consumers, depending on the device they are using.
“Navigation is quite different in our app to our desktop and even to our mobile site,” Ghani continues. “It is all to do with where the thumb is, and whether there is enough room for them to click, or if we can make it smoother in the transition.”
While mobile is the focus, the real goal is bringing users into the mobile app. Ghani says there are obvious attractions in doing so, starting with the fact that app users spend more time interacting.
“We see that the app customers visit more often, they spend more time, and they also spend more dollars with us as well,” Ghani says.
The Iconic’s app also delivers the ability to take advantage of more features within the mobile device, such as push notifications. A recently-released feature in the app allows users to ‘follow’ particular brands that they like, and Ghani says integration of push notification would enable The Iconic to push messages relating to events such as the arrival of new stock.
“Our customers wanted more fashion inspiration and they wanted different ways to experience our catalogue beyond search and browse, and this is an inspiration space for them,” Ghani says.
A big area of investment for The Iconic has been in mobile content. Realising that the app is often used during a person’s commute, the company began experimenting with the frequency with which its content was updated.
“We now update content much more regularly and we have seen an increase in engagement as a result of that,” Ghani says. “We have also seen that users who use the app daily are also more engaged and purchase more often at the same time.”
Like all companies pushing heavily into mobile, Ghani says there is still much to be learned. But she says this also suits the heavy emphasis that The Iconic places on test-and-learn processes and incremental development.
“The way we think about the mobile phone is it has such close proximity to the person, and it is always on, and it is the first thing people reach for,” Ghani says. “At the core, we want to understand what role those devices play in our customers’ lives, and how do we enhance our roadmap to make sure it is doing the right thing.”