Sometimes the biggest challenges drive the greatest innovations. Against the volatile backdrop of the past year, which forced store closures for many retailers, Ralph Lauren transformed its digital platforms and experiences to enable consumers to connect with its brands in new and more personal ways.
During this pandemic-accelerated rollout, Ralph Lauren added approximately 4 million new customers through its direct-to-consumer platforms, and experienced significant double-digit growth in online sales over the past fiscal year.
No one could have foreseen the impact COVID-19 would have on retail. But Ralph Lauren was well-positioned to meet the challenge, having already taken steps to future-proof its business by strengthening its digital infrastructure and capabilities. As part of a consultative optimization project that began in 2019—in close collaboration with Facebook’s client partnership and customer growth teams—the company transformed its customer journey by improving mobile experiences to connect the worlds of in-store and online shopping.
Now, Ralph Lauren’s strategic focus on connected retail isn’t just driving better customer experiences and sales, but also is getting noticed throughout the industry. Gartner’s Digital IQ Index recently recognized Ralph Lauren as the No. 5 luxury brand in digital, citing its robust mobile features and connected retail programs.
For Alice Delahunt, chief digital and content officer at Ralph Lauren, all this good news is validation that the company’s new vision is delivering as planned.
“Our philosophy is to focus on the customer experience first,” she said. “We believe the ways we engage customers should be dependent on where they experience our brand. It may be through a social media post, an email or even as they walk through the door of one of our flagship stores. Mobile is essential at each of these touchpoints since it’s a critical facilitator of the connected customer journey.”
Three principles driving reinvention
It’s evident that Ralph Lauren recognized several principles that drove its reinvention process:
1. A willingness to learn and evolve.
Early in the process, Ralph Lauren engaged Facebook to evaluate the brand’s digital presence, identify potential friction points in the customer journey and find new ways to improve the experience. Those insights inspired several performance-boosting user experience (UX) enhancements. These included more detailed category filters, a simplified checkout flow and important app updates, including improved navigation and clearer presentation of product details. These changes, which put more focus on product discovery, helped the company grow mobile orders by 34%.
2. Translating the brand story for new media.
For more than 50 years, Ralph Lauren has prioritized cinematic lifestyle storytelling across every aspect of commerce and marketing, beginning with in-store experiences and print advertising. In the age of digital the brand has quickly adapted and expanded this vision to its online experiences as well. This approach guided Ralph Lauren to build an elevated mobile storefront that mirrors how the company tells its story on other channels.
3. A road map for success.
While Ralph Lauren’s creative vision has always been the company’s compass, its mobile team’s discipline and commitment have played a major role in the success of the past few years. Working in tandem with Facebook partners, the team has built out detailed mobile roadmaps that span the organization, but are grounded in clear goals, improvement milestones and measurable testing strategies that drive better results. Ralph Lauren periodically meets with Facebook to share successes and recalibrate where needed.
These planning roadmaps have been central to the enhanced customer journey from day one. Now, the team is bringing that same discipline to the next stage of growth.
The future is connected retail
As we all look forward to a post-pandemic future, Ralph Lauren will continue to expand and scale its connected retail programs with a focus on delivering rich mobile experiences.
The company has already seen success with new features that enable consumer interaction with the brand in more personal ways. This past year, amid store closures, Ralph Lauren capitalized on augmented reality, launched virtual store experiences, live-streamed concerts from its retail flagship stores, enabled live chat with in-store experts, accelerated curbside pickup and much more.
Delahunt says these new connected retail efforts have grown revenue globally.
“This challenging year has reminded us how important it is to stay true to our core vision of putting customers first and serving brand-rich storytelling at every possible touchpoint,” she said. “COVID-19 accelerated years’ worth of digital adoption in a matter of months and organizations need to be prepared to adapt. The changes we’ve been making not only enable us to succeed in this environment but also strengthen our ability to anticipate and capitalize on future opportunities.”