Urban Outfitters Preps for Holidays With Mobile Investments

Five Questions With Fashion Retailer's Key Marketing Execs

By Published on .

A number of retailers, with an eye on the upcoming holiday season, are ramping up investments behind their mobile apps, including Urban Outfitters.

Urban Outfitters' new app
Urban Outfitters' new app

The retailer overhauled its app two weeks ago, adding a slew of new features, including the introduction of Urban On, a rewards program, as well as 2D barcode scanning and the ability to listen to the retailer's dedicated radio station. Sales on mobile devices are expected to balloon this season, accounting for 16% of e-commerce sales, according to eMarketer.

"The timing is no accident," said Jim Davis, director-web and customer analytics. "Frankly, we wish we could have gotten it out a month earlier, so downloads would have been higher as we got to the critical weeks in the holiday season."

Here, Mr. Davis and senior marketing manager Moira Gregonis also weigh in on the social-media platforms Urban Outfitters is finding the most success with, and why the brand relies on a small internal team, rather than an agency partner.

Ad Age: Mobile is expected to be an even bigger driver of holiday sales this year. How important is it to your business, at this point?

Mr. Davis: We believe, because of the age of our customer, if we aren't a serious industry-leading player in all of our mobile experiences -- and this includes the way we create experiences for the customer in the store related to mobile technology -- that by the time we get into next year, we'll be behind the eight ball. [Mobile is] increasingly important, from a traffic perspective.

Ad Age: What is your media strategy around the app?

Ms. Gregonis: We're not being very pushy in stores at the moment. Once our most engaged users get on it and start using it, they'll spread the word. You can scan your phone at point of sale, so it will be a bit like the Starbucks phone movement, where you see people using it and say, 'Oh, what is that?'

Mr. Davis: At this point it's unpaid media. We have some paid media launching a little bit later.

Ad Age: Which social-media platforms have you had the most success with?

Ms. Gregonis: Instagram. We hope to have a million followers by year end. That's one platform we're looking to grow and increase engagement. Twitter is also important. Vine we're getting a lot of amazing traction with, but it's a mixed bag. We're definitely observing. We do like one post a week. It's a platform where we don't know what they want from us yet. There are things that get amazingly high engagement and things that are kind of the same and get low engagement.

Ad Age: Have you been able to tie any of your social-media activities to sales?

Mr. Davis: There's definitely some work still to do around that. I believe we have some ways to figure that out, after we start to understand how people are really using it vs. the offering we put into the marketplace. On the other side of social media, we work with ThinkVine, a dynamic company that's doing marketing mix optimization that uses techniques that are very friendly to businesses that have a lot of free and earned media in them.

Ad Age: Do you have any agencies working on mobile or social media?

Mr. Davis: For us, it's hard to find agencies that get our culture and the culture of our customer. Any time we work with an agency they almost end up talking down to the customer in some way in the presentations we get.

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