How fashion house Aje styled a new digital experience

Looking to hone its brand experience, Australian fashion house Aje overhauled its website, improving its metrics and positioning it to rely on digital when the Covid crisis hit.

Looking to hone its brand experience, Australian high-end fashion house, Aje, has overhauled its website, improving its metrics and positioning itself to better rely on digital in the face of the Covid crisis.

The 12-year-old business, which has been built slowly and strategically, suddenly found itself needing to adapt and revamp its online presence as the crisis struck. It meant a rapid shift to the digital space to consistently communicate with its customers, focus on the core clothing line and keep the consumer encouraged with compelling content and design. 

The first steps were to overhaul the local website and ensure a consistent look and feel through all the digital channels, while keeping in mind the larger goal of expanding out through the international site.

“The time was right to have a revamp of the website. That also coincided with the business really focusing on the digital channel and the international expansion plans,” Aje head of ecommerce, Georgie Yates, told CMO.

And with the pandemic, the business invested more into digital marketing and it could adjust quickly. “We had to be reactive and adaptive. So with the digital revamp underway, that set us up because we'd done that kind of scenario planning and already laid the groundwork when the lockdown came into place,” Yates said.

The challenge: Develop an immersive digital experience

It was clear Aje was not fully harnessing the opportunity or potential of the virtual retail environment, particularly to its digitally engaged customers, who often research online before visiting a store and are influenced by Aje’s strong social media presence.

Despite the fact that over three-quarters of Aje’s customers were engaging with the brand on their mobile devices, its mobile site wasn’t optimised, and payment types weren’t always working well through its digital platforms.

Meanwhile, Aje was growing its international distribution channels in New Zealand and across some of the most renowned American department stores, including Saks Fifth Avenue and Nordstrom. The retailer needed to get its global website optimised and improved to accelerate awareness and sales, with local pricing, currencies and seasonal content.

“For many of our global customers, the first time they encounter the Aje brand is online, so we wanted to design an experience that immerses them in our world, as soon as they land on the site,” Yates said.

Aje turned to Shopify Plus to implement a redesigned site keeping downtime to a minimum, and to merge its online and offline customer experiences. It also entered the partnership for Shopify Plus to act as a sounding board for innovative ecommerce ideas.

With the help of Shopify Plus partner, Moustache Republic, Aje and Shopify worked together to identify all the things the site needed to do, and optimise the existing site as it wasn't doing justice to sales or customer experience. The site needed to be simple, effortless and fluid - something Aje, a fashion company at heart, itself could manage, Yates explained.

Given a big part of the business strategy was to go global, Aje was also keen to get more 'glocal', offering the best experience to represent the brand in the best way in its various locations. This meant working to make site imagery really stand out and ensuring moving around the site was completely frictionless and intuitive.

Thanks to COVID-19 conditions and the redesign, the website now accounts for around 50 per cent of Aje's sales, up from about 30 per cent previously. With many customers compelled to shop online for the first time because of the lockdown, Aje has benefited from the redesigned site in terms of engaging new and returning customers.

“The push-pull challenge with a website overhaul is about ensuring all the elements are in place to advance the functionality while also upholding the strong brand vision to engage customers," Yates said. “It’s not just a standard website, but then it also has to adhere to what's familiar to the customer because, generally, that is what works well from a user experience perspective.

“It’s making sure you are pushing the envelope and doing something really quite different, but also making sure that it's usable.”

The results: Elevating customer experience

It didn’t take long for the positive effects of the digital overhaul to start to show. In just a few weeks, Aje saw its conversion rate increase by 135 per cent. The bounce rate also reduced, pages per session have increased, and average session duration has lifted. While not wanting to overcomplicate the technology side of things, Aje can have localised websites in that currency to keep the retail experience seamless and authentic.

“We really want to be able to match different seasons for our customers outside of Australia and that’s probably the biggest challenge with cross-border trading from Australia. Being able to serve all our customers year-round is important,” Yates said.

While a beautiful new website is one thing, Yates said Aje also wanted to be able to make sure we could give customers the whole experience, from when they land on the site, all the way through to when they receive their order.

Aje now has three expansion stores to sell internationally. It launched a site for New Zealand customers, offering a localised experience in NZD, along with its Australian site in AUD. Aje also launched a new global site for customers using multi-currency with Shopify Payments, supporting 20 currencies. This caters to customers in other parts of the world with different seasonality, and who engage with different product types. Now, Aje ships to 75 countries from this site, including to the US and those in Asia and the Middle East.

With all its key markers moving in the right direction, customer feedback has been positive, with shoppers messaging and calling Aje to express how much better the site is to use. Aje is now looking to potentially roll out a future of click and collect orders, and even a virtual stylist service.

Inventory, sizing information, order processing, styling advice and other customer service queries - the website and back-end overhaul is allowing Aje to respond to customers who are increasingly looking for brand engagement earlier on in the process. Yates said it's also a change of mindset in understanding how customers engage with all of the different brand touchpoints at different times and for different purposes before, during and after a transaction. For the website itself, it’s also about embracing the notion of ongoing refining and improvement.

“The website redesign is never done, never completely finished. What we want to be doing with the site is constantly iterating and progressing. Not leaving it as is for 18 months and doing the same process again,” Yates said.

“It’s being able to reflect how Aje as a brand is changing and evolving as well.”

Follow CMO on Twitter: @CMOAustralia, take part in the CMO conversation on LinkedIn: CMO ANZ, follow our regular updates via CMO Australia's Linkedin company page, or join us on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/CMOAustralia.

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