Fashion brands are increasingly killing their apps in favor of building strong mobile websites. But with an app-driven strategy fueling its current growth, Lilly Pulitzer has no plans to jump on the bandwagon.
Since the nearly 60-year-old brand launched its app in the summer of 2015, it’s gone through three redesigns — each centered on creating a strong engagement and retention tool for the brand, rather than driving more sales. The app has photo frames reminiscent of Snapchat filters and “Lilly emojis.” But the Discover stream, which features shoppable looks on “real people” — either photos by paid influencers or user-generated content — is seeing the most traction.
“We really see mobile and our app as the link between the stores and our digital world, and the key to our omni-channel strategy,” said Kim Czopek, Lilly Pulitzer’s vp of digital.
According to Czopek, it’s typically only when there’s a sense of urgency — i.e., new arrivals drop or a promotion starts — that shoppers choose to purchase on the app.
“A lot of retailers mistake mobile for a transactional medium: There’s store and there’s web, and there’s mobile,” said David Spitz, CMO of customer data platform mParticle, which has been working with Lilly Pulitzer since it launched its app. “But Lilly — which is more luxury, versus mass market — has realized it’s best used as a way to serve the most loyal customers. The focus is on the experience.”
Comparing it to a pseudo-loyalty program, the app offers shoppers features and information the mobile website does not, said Laura Poatsy, Lilly Pulitzer’s mobile experience supervisor. The company plans to build on those features to reward shoppers for being an engaged part of the community.
The company sees more traffic on mobile, but higher conversion and revenue through its desktop site — about 60 percent, compared to 40. Though digital is its highest growth area, its retail and wholesale business, which includes an Amazon partnership, still accounts for a majority of the company’s revenue.
“We say we’re mobile-first, but it’s more of a philosophy than an abandonment of any channels that aren’t mobile, said Poatsy. “We know that our customer usually discovers us on a mobile device, so any experience we design is really taking that into account.”
Core shoppers are regularly using the app to browse product or plan a purchase, said Poatsy: “They’ll use the app as a bookmark so they can go into a store and show the sales associate exactly what they want. Or they’ll use it as a wishlist, putting things in their ‘totes’ until the right time to purchase.”
That’s how people are shopping today: According to a February 2017 report by Forrester, mobile influenced over $1 trillion in retail sales in 2016, or one-third of total (online and in-store) sales. A report by Google showed 80 percent of shoppers reference their phones while shopping.
“Mobile is the centerpiece of the retail experience,” said Spitz. “Even though mobile is only a small fraction of people buying on their phones, it’s influencing the whole thing: becoming your loyalty card, your identity, your payment system and your personal shopping assistant when you’re in the store.”
One of the first services mParticle launched for Lilly Pulitzer (after introducing push notifications) was “deep linking,” which allows shoppers to seamlessly transition from web to app. The company saw 8,000 downloads of its app in the first 90 days after implementing the tool. Once regular shoppers were introduced to the “extra world of Lilly,” they were sold, said Czopek.