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App, app and away: All Saints' mobile strategy in focus

There’s a job advert for an All Saints digital project manager doing the rounds online, giving an indication of where much of the UK fashion retailer’s focus lies right now.

“We are a brand embarking on a very exciting plan and we are seeking new members of the team who want to contribute to this,” the ad states, while talking up the role as an opportunity to lead and “deliver projects on the digital roadmap”.

The very fact the job is up for grabs emphasises the business is looking to drive digital change and it also comes at what appears to be an active time for the in-house technology team at All Saints, where mobile development has been a core motivation.

As Essential Retail reported last week, the native All Saints mobile app added Amazon Pay functionality on 6 June, giving customers an alternative option at the checkout and an opportunity for frictionless transactions. Indeed, the app itself is new, having been launched in December 2018 as the precursor to a more comprehensive mobile strategy.

Jonathan Harris-French, a digital project manager at All Saints, says the retailer is at the start of its journey to improve its mobile proposition. It has provided customers with a mobile optimised website for several years – and previously operated an app which was discontinued – but the team sought a smoother checkout process.

“Things are looking very positive, with conversion at least double the mobile website conversion – so it’s all looking promising,” explains Harris-French, who notes that the iOS app was launched as a minimum viable product but with the idea new functionality will continue to be added.

“We did a lot of user testing, with so many proof-of-concepts and mocks. We had customers trial it, as well as in-house testers – and small incremental changes were made as we went along to get it ready for launch.”

Direction of travel

Now the app has been launched, the focus turns to what additional features it will contain.

The recently added Amazon Pay functionality on a native app is a rarity, giving All Saints a point of difference over its nearest competitors in the UK, but there are also plans to explore how PayPal and Apple Pay can be introduced.

“The native app allows people to scan their cards with their phone camera and save it to device,” Harris-French notes.

“We use biometrics on the iPhone as well – so face or touch ID can be used to verify a person in the checkout process.”

Amazon Pay will help encourage shoppers in international markets to download the app, he adds, with the US a target market.

"A lot of our friends across the pond like to use Amazon as a main payment method, so we’re setting the tone and the foundations for us to have a successful launch over in the US.”

Link-up with staff app

The All Saints technology team has gone through several significant changes in the last two years, with James Wintle leaving his role as global director of technology & digital in May 2017. Long-term CEO William Kim, who was a digitally-focused leader and keen trumpeter of the use of technology in retail, also left All Saints last summer.

Last year, John Bovill, the former Monsoon Accessorize IT and eCommerce director, joined the business in an executive consultant role to oversee the digital and technology function at All Saints, and the retailer is finding its digital momentum once again.

Harris-French says the same in-house team that worked on bringing the customer app to life also provide the technical expertise behind the All Saints staff app, which is used to communicate internal messaging and documentation. Work is under way to combine the two for operational and customers’ benefit.

“We have a massive opportunity to start linking these services and getting the customer app to talk to the store staff app and embellishing on that customer journey when they are in the store,” he remarks, adding it would give store staff an opportunity to improve the customer experience by accessing extra information.

All Saints is a Google G-suite house, using the software to host its training tools and brand operations-created documentation. This too is available on the staff app, which is accessed via company iPods.

Gimmicks or gold dust?

While the UK grocery sector appears focused on how faster delivery, self-service or in-aisle payment can improve its customers’ experiences, the en vogue fashion retail technology of the last 12 months has arguably been visual search.

Harris-French calls visual search “a proven new feature” and one that “definitely adds value”, but admits it might not work for All Saints, which has much smaller collections than the likes of Asos and other online pure-plays already benefiting from the tech.

“It’s not to say we won’t consider it in the future but it's not top of our list right now.”

He also has his own personal list of “gimmicky” technologies, and cautions that some retailers can get wrapped up following the crowds when it comes to investing in new systems and chasing the silver bullet.

“It’s not innovation if people don’t want to use it – there’s no point having some functionality for the sake of it and because everyone else is trying it out,” he argues.

“We are interested in doing new things and we have the benefit of all our systems being in-house, and we are not reliant on third parties implementing products for us. We can move at great velocity when implementing new things.”

It would appear any new recruits joining Harris-French at All Saints HQ in the months ahead will be joining a business with an increasingly digital focus and a can-do philosophy when it comes to new technology.

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