House of Fraser’s introduction of beacon technology for in-store mannequins underlines its continued commitment to creating a truly omnichannel experience for consumers. With over 60 stores nationwide, the traditional department store is anything but traditional in terms of the cutting-edge services it provides, underlined by its extended partnership to 2017 with software company eCommera.
House of Fraser’s efforts have been rewarded with year on year growth in online sales of 41 per cent to January 2014. The key to House of Fraser’s success has been in recognising the importance of mobile shopping – the business now generates over half of its online traffic from mobile devices.
In March, House of Fraser was singled out alongside John Lewis and Topshop as being “close” to achieving omnichannel success but Paul Martin, director of Boxwood Insights, has argued that “no one is ahead of the curve”.
Nevertheless, House of Fraser continues to innovate technologically in order to improve the customer experience. The website has been simplified to cater to its increase in mobile traffic, becoming a mobile-first website. The easy-to-use check-out system and ‘super zoom’ function further enhance users’ ability to shop.
Andy Harding, executive director of multichannel at House of Fraser, was keen to point out that these innovations would improve the experience for customers. “We’re doing things that try to be different but at the same time not doing something for the sake of being different”, he said. “It’s got to add value, have a purpose”.
Furthermore, its decision to hire James Peach from Asos to take up the newly created role of Head of Organic Search (Search Engine Optimisation) specifically to oversee the website’s improvement and visibility.
House of Fraser’s progress has been tempered by the uncertainty regarding its future, however. In 2013, the French department store Galeries Lafayette was considering a takeover, whilst House of Fraser was itself discussing the possibility of a float on the London Stock Exchange.
Now it seems as if the company will be acquired by Nanjing Xinjiekou Department Store, whose largest shareholder is the Chinese conglomerate Sanpower. The company will buy an 89 per cent stake in House of Fraser’s owner Highland Group Holdings.