Delivering the digital experience at Lorna Jane
- 02 May, 2013 16:07
When Lorna Jane’s digital strategist, Sam Zivot, joined the retail business just over three years ago, it had 80 Australian shopfronts, was in the midst of rapid growth and was just starting to realise the importance of online engagement.
Three years on and the business has increased its Australian retail locations to 125, grown its wholesale partnerships to more than 100, and is actively pursuing an international business with 15 shops in the US and three in South Africa. Its digital offering has undergone a similar transformation, and Lorna Jane is today one of the top corporate users of social media in Australia, boasting the largest Facebook community (700,000 followers and counting) of any fashion brand nationally.
Zivot, who directly reports to the CEO and COO, said there was “little or no digital presence” when he arrived. The digital division has since expanded to account for six of Lorna Jane’s 18 marketing staff, and almost 50 per cent of the total marketing budget is spent on digital activities today.
Zivot’s focus includes social media strategy, managing supplier and agency relationships from a digital perspective, improving ecommerce channels and conversion, driving direct and referral traffic and revenue, improving search rankings, exploring new and emerging marketing opportunities, and building up the customer database.
“For my first year here, I was the ‘man behind the woman’ creating and managing all the content, posts and things online behind our brand,” he said. “I continue to run all the Facebook advertising and social communication, but I’ve also taken on a more strategic marketing position determining how to use digital channels most effectively to not only drive online business, but also the brand.”
So how has Lorna Jane gained such digital credibility and how much science has helped to get it there?
Gearing up digitally
For Zivot, technology adoption is at the heart of the company’s digital discovery and he outlined a number of software tools that have supported his efforts along the way. The list offers a great lesson in how multiple tools can come together and heighten a marketing team’s ability to not only monitor but also respond to customer behaviour in real-time.
The most significant investment in terms of cost and resourcing has been the re-platforming of Lorna Jane’s website, which relaunched 12 months ago. The company opted for German-based Hybris’ multichannel commerce platform, which is used by several larger global retailers including Adidas and H&M. Zivot said the solution was previously used only by A-level retailers in order to future-proof the business.
“Having international aspirations, it was important we overinvested in the platform so it’s something we grow into rather than outgrow quickly, like we did our previous website,” he said.
Lorna Jane also brought on Salesforce’s Radian6 in July last year, a cloud-based solution which allows the company to listen into and make sense of social chatter in order to tailor its communications accordingly. Key selling points for Radian6 included minimal development time, easy implementation, negligible impact on other IT systems and simplicity of use.
“Radian6 augments our ability to listen to conversations across the channels whereas before we would have had to do that in a manual way,” Zivot said. “It’s easy to report from and you can get a view of the whole picture.
“We wanted to determine key insights and gain a better understanding of what is making our competitors successful, what their key challenges were and what could we derive from social media chatter to refine and drive our own social media strategy. It has allowed us to understand what people respond to well and what they don’t, and incorporate that in how we talk to customers.
“We were also interested in that because it’s very easy to have a social media disaster happen to you. We are fortunate because we are careful about how we do things in the social sphere, and we haven’t been bitten yet. But it’s an early warning centre and crisis management tool that allows us to respond before a potential problem gets too big to manage.”
Lorna Jane prides itself on being a grassroots brand and Zivot said it was important for its digital presence to reflect local communities. As a result, it launched individual Facebook pages for each store. The challenge was how to empower those stores to communicate while retaining an element of control over messaging.
To do this, Lorna Jane has deployed the HearIs software tool. Not only does it allow the marketing team to push through a global message, it also ensures regional and store-based management can broadcast just to their region. “This tool has enabled the stores to have a substantial following individually, even without a significant local marketing budget,” Zivot said.
On the ecommerce side, Zivot recently brought on SaleCycle software to improve its shopping cart completion rate. For those 70 per cent or more of customers that create a shopping cart but abandon the transaction prior to purchase, the tool sends an email reminder 15 minutes later with their details intact to prompt a conversion.
In the first month Lorna Jane lifted its ecommerce conversion rate by 6 per cent. “We’re now finding those communications are converting at five times the site average,” Zivot said. “It just shows a timely message is more important than an offer or a sale/promotion on and it doesn’t impact our margins.”
Other tools employed to monitor and improve the sales online conversion rate include WebTrends’ Web analytics software.
Being cloud-based platforms with per-month or per-sale pricing, all of the above tools enable Lorna Jane to keep the cost of technology acquisition down, Zivot said. “It shares the responsibility and makes the vendors accountable for their product, and also makes it easier for me to go and ask a CEO to support it if they only charge us for what we sell.”
Anecdotally, Lorna Jane’s CEO was also won over by a YouTube video of Gatorade’s marketing team running a Radian6 command centre for real-time marketing analytics and monitoring, Zivot added.
“We now have six TV screens set-up where we have all of our analytics – two screens for Radian 6, plus Google Analytics, our SaleCycle tracking and all this real-time information up there,” Zivot said. “The info is there and we can explain to the CEO what’s happening in real time, for better or worse.”
While he’s a fervent believer in the power of technology in marketing, Zivot said Lorna Jane is not an IT-heavy brand internally and outsources the majority of its core IT work. This presents significant challenges in the speed of delivery and meeting the changing needs of customers.
“As a company that has grown so fast from a smallish business to a medium to large one, having the IT to run things effectively have been a major challenge,” he said. “So much of what you do now as a retailer relies on having strong IT support. We’ve just hired our first internal IT person and that has been a godsend.”
Zivot agreed the raft of software available to marketers is tipping the scales in favour of data-driven marketing while also offering previously unachievable productivity improvements. “These platforms have taken a lot of the thought process away from the individual, and we make less decisions based on our gut,” he continued.
“For example it could be technology that automatically goes and merchandises my page to the optimal solution based on what converted the highest, or on that individual’s profile. Formerly, we may have looked upon ourselves more for strategy and what we could brainstorm out.”
Yet as fond as he is of the science, Zivot remains unconvinced every social media connection between a brand and a consumer must be measured, weighted and prioritised. One of the big challenges with social media is how you truly determine its influence and ROI given it is one of many ways brands interact with customers in the sales and marketing lifecycle.
“Social media does have a direct impact on sales and it can be measured. Aside from search engine direct traffic, it’s our next highest referral of traffic online and unquestionably it’s driving actual sales and revenue as a referral source,” Zivot said. “But that is just purely looking at a particular sale or promotion we’re running.
“It is a challenge to measure impact. A lot of the social media suites you integrate with your website enable these sharing options to drive traffic. But even that doesn’t measure the true value of social because so much is over the long term, and about connecting with and becoming loyal to the brand, which is hard to directly attribute specifically.
“When people ask me this question, I always bring it back to what the ROI of a billboard is. How is that any different from advertising on Facebook or spending time and resources on that? Often social media is less expensive than doing any mass media campaign, which I feel perhaps unfairly escapes the scrutiny social media tends to get from an ROI view.
“When people are enormously positive in expressing their experiences with their brand socially, that definitely counts.”
Zivot also pointed out technology on its own doesn’t complete the loop. While Radian6 and HearIs are great enablers for marketing, it is imperative to provide adequate training and usage policies for staff, and ensure they meet the needs of the business.
Managing the wealth of data being collated is another concern and opportunity. Thanks to the combination of technologies employed at Lorna Jane, it’s easier to demonstrate the effectiveness of data-driven marketing yet interpreting and making the most of the insights generated will keep marketers on their toes for some time yet.
“We have proven time and time again campaigns that are data-driven are substantially more effective than those that aren’t and those sent to everyone,” Zivot said. “But getting everything seamless from a data point of view is one of our big challenges too. We collect a lot of data and it’s determining how to use that data as effectively as we can. Step by step we are getting there, but there is a long way to go.”
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