A look inside Lulu Guinness's technology tool bag

Lulu Guinness did not participate in this month’s London Fashion Week but the designer handbag brand seems ready to tread the online catwalk in the 12 months ahead.

The business went live on Salesforce Commerce Cloud in August last year, and managing director, Paul Spinks, is confident the brand’s digital proposition will be a key growth driver following a replatforming from Magento.

“We know digital is becoming more important to the business, representing over one-third of our total turnover, so it was natural for us to continue to invest within the digital channel,” he says.

New site, new sales

Spinks, who is ex-Javelin Group and the former managing director of fashion and homewares retailer Cath Kidston, talks of seeing multiple commercial benefits since relaunching the site.

Systems integrator (SI) Astound Commerce helped introduce several radical changes to the new website straight away. A ‘video surprises’ product detail page feature was created alongside guided search functionality, while a better connection was made between home, product, and category page management.

“Re-launching the website allowed us to review what the brand essence was and what the touch points were, and to make it fun,” notes Spinks.

The black and white humbug aesthetic has become a cornerstone of the new site design alongside the famous lip and Lulu doll icons. This global brand language, fine-tuned by Astound’s design team, is now communicated to users of the website via illustration, animated gifs and video.

“We needed someone who could marshal us through the whole process as we don’t have an army of integrators or online tech people in the business,” Spinks says, explaining a core reason for choosing to work with Astound, which does have those resources.

“We launched with Apple Pay but if we’d done that internally it would have taken weeks and months. We could take the functionality existing in the platform and launch it straight away.”

Moves like this have helped the brand improve conversion metrics in recent months, with mobile revenue apparently up by 50% year on year since the new website launched.

“Even though we’re a high average order value business it is amazing how many people are willing to spend and convert on a £400 handbag using their mobile phones,” he asserts, adding that PayPal has now usurped Visa as the most popular way for Lulu Guinness online shoppers to transact.

Marketing that learns

Spinks says a greater proportion of traffic is now coming straight to the official site from social media and more of these visits are converting into sales.

In light of this development, more focus is being placed on using social for commercial benefit. For example, Lulu Guinness is working with Whalar to ensure relevant online influencers on sites such as Instagram are promoting the company’s brand.

Meanwhile, video content is being put in front of a range of audiences thanks to Teads’ digital advertising technology. From the Financial Times to You magazine, the ads are spread across the web and, depending on where customers react best, the video are positioned accordingly.

“We did that after the website relaunch, and we expect to do more of this going forward,” he says, adding that Zmags will continue to be a key partner in the creation of the brand’s digital video content.

A contented brand

The greater use of video is just part of a wider plan to develop more content of all types in the months ahead, with Spinks suggesting it is “a huge area” for the brand.

“We have been developing a significant amount of video content – obviously people want to purchase but they also want to know about the brand,” he explains.

“Video allows us to facilitate the customer journey for people who are new to the brand. We can do this through Zmags.”

It is not just in-house content development on the cards. User-generated content (UGC) is a relatively untapped resource for Lulu Guinness’s marketing team, but that is set to change thanks in part to work with social commerce firm Curalate – a partnership that aims to make better commercial use of what the public is saying about the brand online.

“One of the reasons we went down the route of a new eCommerce platform was to improve conversions, but also to bring more content,” the managing director notes.

“We’re seeing an increase in dwell time, as people are engaging more. Before they are purchasing, they’re looking on social or the website, so we feel as though UGC and more content in general will help turnover and conversions.”

Brand, product and distribution

Results filed with Companies House at the start of 2019 showed Lulu Guinness is a business delivering top-line growth with year-on-year sales for the 12 months to 25 March 2018 up by 6% to £10.1 million. The sales came at a pre-tax loss of £188,710, but this has narrowed from the £802,358 loss the previous year.

Financially speaking, Spinks says “our short-term focus is investment and then to start moving into profit thereafter”, supported by a continued drive to develop the three core elements: brand, product and distribution.

“On brand we are continuing to invest in all types of media advertising having launched digital advertising last year successfully with Teads,” he explains.

Wholesale is also a key part of the Lulu Guinness mix, with the brand’s items sold through third parties such as Zalando, House of Fraser and Shop Direct’s Very.co.uk. Spinks says the company will continue to source new and high profile accounts.

Internationally, there are plans to develop its existing non-UK markets such as China and Taiwan, while a launch in Japan and South Korea has been earmarked for 2020 and 2021 respectively. Two new stores in central London are also on the agenda.

Spinks is confident Lulu Guinness now has tools and technology to meet its goals, saying: “The new site has given us a fantastic platform to continue to progress with our digital strategy.”