July 16, 2013, 4:21 PM

Deb Shops boosts revenue 170% from mobile shoppers who click ‘What’s Hot’

The button reveals products that are trending on Facebook and Pinterest.

Lead Photo

A screenshot of Deb Shops' mobile site displaying What's Hot.

Along with knowing how to ace driver’s ed, who to befriend on the yearbook staff and how to avoid parents on Facebook, knowing what clothing is hot or not is a priority for many teenage girls.

Taking this into account, junior fashion retailer Deb Shops added a “What’s Hot” button to its mobile commerce site that displays the retailer’s products currently trending on Pinterest and Facebook, says vice president of e-commerce and digital marketing David Cost. Compared with shoppers who don’t tap the button, those who do are 20% more likely to add items to their shopping carts and bring in 170% more revenue, he says.

“For a retailer like us that has a very broad product offering, to get customers quickly to relevant products is important, especially on a mobile device,” he says. Deb Shops has more than 30,000 products in its catalog.

The retailer debuted its first mobile site in April 2012, Cost says. Smartphone traffic has soared—at the end of 2011 it accounted for 15% of web traffic, by the end of 2012 it was up to 40% and today it is more than 50%. That led the retailer to redesign its mobile site, focusing on improving site search and navigation. It chose technology from vendor BloomReach Corp.

BloomReach provides Internet-hosted software that takes in all the data about what Deb Shops products shoppers are posting and engaging with on Facebook and Pinterest, as well as data about consumer intent and language—for example, that “brilliant” is the preferred term to describe a sparkling pendant necklace—from 30 online monitoring tools, says Joelle Kaufman, chief marketing officer of BloomReach. It also incorporates customer engagement data from Deb Shops’ web and mobile sites.

Using these sources, BloomReach built both the What’s Hot button and Deb Shops’ other primary navigation tool, the “More Like This” button. More Like This uses the visual attributes of a product—for example, black, one-shoulder, sparkly dresses—to show a shopper more items that look like what she’s viewing, Kaufman says. That is distinct from product recommendation engines that determine what items to show a shopper based on what other shoppers have clicked or purchased when viewing the same product. The advantage, Kaufman says, is that with More Like This, a shopper won’t see a pair of shoes when she is still searching for a dress.

Additionally, shoppers who click More Like This will begin seeing new items from the catalog as soon as they’re available; other product recommendation engines must wait for data about how customers respond to new items before feeding them into results, she says.

BloomReach uses the same data sources and analysis that determine the results for What’s Hot and More Like This in Deb Shops’ mobile site search. By monitoring what products are trending, the site search can predict what a shopper is looking for after she types in as few as two letters, Kaufman says. Then, it will autosuggest complete search phrases so that a mobile shopper need not type out the rest of the characters.

For instance, after typing “ho,” the mobile site search suggests 10 options in a drop-down menu, with the top-trending match—homecoming dresses—first. When the shopper taps that phrase in the drop-down list, another sub-list appears on the right side of the screen to further refine “homecoming dresses” by top sub-categories, such as plus-size or junior clearance dresses. About 20% to 25% of Deb Shops mobile shoppers use site search, Kaufman says.

BloomReach provides a few lines of code that Deb Shops drops into its mobile web site. For the first clients to test the technology, it started at about $5,000 per month, increasing with a client’s volume of mobile traffic, BloomReach says. As it becomes available to everyone within the month, the starting price will be slightly higher. Setting it up takes a couple of weeks, Kaufman says.

Because the technology is web-hosted, whenever BloomReach adds a new feature, it updates for all clients immediately. For example, the vendor plans to add more geolocation data to its trending products and search results, which Deb Shops will be able to start using with no extra work or fees as soon as it’s available, she says.

Deb Shops’ customers are teenagers who “live on their smartphones,” Cost says, but their parents usually are the ones finalizing the purchase. So while mobile is where Deb Shops’ customers do most of their browsing, most transactions still wind up on the desktop site, he says. However, shoppers who visit the mobile site convert overall seven times more often than those who visit only the desktop site. “For us, what’s important is: How long do they engage with the web site, how many products do they look at and do they come back?” he says. 

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