Fashion brand Joy adopts a digital-first mindset with ecommerce
She is a feminine, independent, full-time worker in her thirties, who likes to wear curated dresses and spend the weekends outdoors, with family and friends. Lately, she has been shopping online more than she ever did, especially on her phone. Still, she prefers quality over quantity, but really likes to change outfits, always keeping that functional yet stylish, flattering look. That’s the buyer persona of Joy, the British fashion brand that has five stores all over the United Kingdom and is now driving its efforts towards ecommerce.
Technologically prepared for COVID-19
In 2019, the management team of Joy realized it was spending quite a lot of money on development rather than marketing and sales and it wanted to change that. The previous ecommerce platform had to be upgraded and that was the moment when the idea of replatforming the fashion website appeared. In this case, Joy chose VTEX.
“One of our priorities was to ride on that exponential curve that businesses who use VTEX are experiencing, rather than having to do upgrades every now and then and living in an upgrade-plateauing cycle.“Dylan Chadha, Commercial Director of Joy
It is not the first time that VTEX has been chosen for its exponential growth, but the benefits are far from stopping there. In most of the cases, the retailers – fashion or otherwise – seek for personalization of their ecommerce channel, and the variety of applications that the interface has is usually a key point in finally deciding to implement it.
With VTEX, Joy was able to implement customer reviews, ratings, wishlists, a customized checkout, a sleeker look-n-feel, as well as Apple Pay and Klarna – all to increase brand loyalty.
“For the past 10 years or so, the choice has been between an ecommerce platform that meant that you had to devote a lot of resources to developing it into something close to your vision, or working with a straight out of the box product that gave you very little scope in terms of modification. We experienced both scenarios, learning the hard way in the process and ultimately we changed to VTEX because it ticked a lot of boxes for us. We’ve also found it was easy to coordinate the agencies with the internal team. We wanted to make sure we worked efficiently.“Dylan Chadha, Commercial Director of Joy
In hindsight, all that investment was worthwhile when the COVID-19 pandemic appeared. During the lockdown period, Joy’s physical stores were closed for more than 6 months, and all the efforts were then directed to the online channel. That’s when Louche, a second online channel emerged, as a need caused by the pandemic.
The newly-opened brand Louche has the same womenswear assortment of Joy but it only offers proprietary items. Preserving that London style, which is a mix of a contemporary casual aesthetic with signature vintage touches, the brand has its own plans of capturing all those women who want to find a nice floral dress in just a few clicks. Despite no marketing investment to hype up its presence, the results are already promising, with LFL revenue for the first quarter since launch up 209% and conversion rate up 41%.
On Joy, however, you can easily find womenswear, menswear and even homeware and accessories, all available online and offline. These articles are part of a multi-brand structure functioning under the Joy umbrella, without stating who’s the supplier behind each item. The company’s intention is to now optimise the results (e.g. the cost-per-click) in the UK and, afterwards, it will broaden the scope to Europe and America.
Rethinking Joy’s strategies
Throughout this entire period of profound change, Joy had to rethink some of its strategies and embrace a new era of fashion retail. Amongst the many lessons learned, the following four ones stand out.
1. Becoming digital-first is a must
In the UK, the online fashion segment generated a revenue of $23 billion USD in 2019, which amounts to a 30% share of the entire UK ecommerce market. What is more, later in 2020, over 45% of all retail sales of clothing, textiles and footwear were made online. So, it is clear that the UK has definitely got a digital-first customer.
“We’ve seen year over year how much online sales have taken out of the pie in terms of a greater sales mix. And there’s no question that now you need to be digital-first.“Dylan Chadha, Commercial Director of Joy
But the truth is only a few fashion brands are online-native and have actually succeeded in the digital arena. The sector is mainly composed of clothing companies that grew their chains of physical stores in the last 20 years and have now made an effort to also have their presence online.
“We had to have a mindset change. Many companies have had to do that, and many of us initially made the mistake of thinking of ecommerce as an afterthought but, with time, the online channel has become the clear focus. Times change and so do priorities.“Dylan Chadha, Commercial Director of Joy
Joy has been seeing its sales gradually change from the original and better known retail channel (still the main source of income), passing through wholesale and ending with the online direct-to-consumer (DTC) store. When it comes to nationwide sales, in the UK, the forecasted fashion ecommerce revenue growth in 2022 is 4.6%, and it seems Joy is following the same trend – with omnichannel in mind.
2. Shoppers are demanding an omnichannel operation
Omnichannel nowadays is one of the top concerns of retail businesses, as that’s what the customer actually expects and demands: they want to have that specific item and they want to have it as fast as possible, not caring if the brand has it stored in another location on the opposite coast of the country.
Coming from a brick-and-mortar background, Joy’s vision was to have both the ecommerce and physical stores unified so that the customer can look at them and feel exactly the same. From an operational level perspective, Joy already lets its customers purchase online and opt for pick-up in-store, completing their whole digital and physical experience and, potentially, doing a cross-sell in the process.
“Physical stores have character and personality and, when thinking of ecommerce, it has to be reflective of that.“Dylan Chadha, Commercial Director of Joy
3. More frequent collection drops means more profitability
Being more focused on the online consumers made Joy and the majority of the players in the fashion sector rethink their supply strategies and redefine the collection structure they had planned for the year ahead.
The truth is, the consumer has evolved together with the amount of channels she has at her disposal. This new online consumer desires to obtain products and services now and, as a consequence, that is accelerating the process of producing and delivering drops more frequently to the stores. After all, we’ve all entered a store in the middle of August and have found out the new collections are all winter coats only suitable if you’re traveling to the North Pole, not to the 25ºC concrete jungle waiting outside.
“The stock can get tired in the store: having a heavy coat for eight weeks makes people lose the sense of “novelty” for it. By the time it gets cold, people won’t be thrilled to buy it.“Dylan Chadha, Commercial Director of Joy
Overall, Joy has defined itself not as a fast-fashion retailer, but as a “medium-paced” retailer. Trying to find the equilibrium between the quality of the clothes and the frequency of launches is difficult. There’s no brand that can offer new drops each week and still keep the highest quality in the market, but being a medium-paced retailer enables the brand to “surprise” its customers with smaller curated collections every two weeks instead of the usual three months.
Joy’s strategy fits perfectly with statistics that show 62% of online buyers shop at least once per month, and 26% even once per week! Having Joy’s shelves or online catalogues renewed more often has been proved to be a driver of sales and, last but not least, also an increase in traffic.
4. Mobile leads the way
In terms of usability, 65% of Joy’s online sales currently come from mobile devices, whereas 5 years ago most of its traffic was originating from desktops. When a shift from one device to the other was first observed, there was also a drop in sales. The reality is the conversion rate for desktop is usually higher (around 2%) and switching to mobile made Joy rethink its strategies and start investing in a mobile-first approach.
The good news is that, once the improvements were done on the mobile website, the conversion rate increased on desktop as well. As a result, compared to last year, Joy’s growth in CR has risen 40% since February 2021 until now. Now that’s what we call business joy.