Shop Direct, which operates digital department stores Very.co.uk, Littlewoods.com and VeryExclusive.co.uk, delivered its fifth consecutive record-breaking Christmas sales performance during the seven weeks to 23 December 2016.
As shoppers reached for their smartphones, the UK’s second largest pureplay etailer increased group sales by 9% year-on-year – putting the company on track to deliver another year of record sales and profits in 2016/17.
Sales via mobile devices comprised 68% of Shop Direct’s online sales, with the company’s performance underpinned by its largest and fastest growing retail brand, Very.co.uk. The digital department store delivered sales growth of 19% year-on-year.
Another record Christmas for Shop Direct
Sales for the seven-week period were up 9% year-on-year (2015: 6%)
- Very.co.uk, Shop Direct’s growth engine, grew sales by 19% year-on-year
- Shop Direct trading highlights include:
o 97m site visits, up 20% year-on-year
o Over 410,000 new customers, up 16% year-on-year
o Fashion was the standout category with 16% sales growth, supported by:
- Shop Direct’s recently launched (September 2016) own-brand label V by Very, which proved a hit with customers and is on track to become a £200m brand
- Popularity of athleisure products, with ladies sportswear alone growing by 83%
o Smart technology, growing 261% year-on-year and buoyed by:
- 511% boom in smart home products
- 268% growth in wearable technology
o Another record-breaking Black Friday week, with year-on-year sales up by 4%
Delivered by sticking to a winning formula
- Shop Direct offered over 1,300 famous brands across its digital department stores during the festive period – with thoughtful, planned promotions
o Among the top 10 Christmas gifts were:
- Apple watches
- Hasbro’s Pie Face game
- 94% of purchases were made using options to spread the cost – illustrating how much consumers value our offer
- We delivered 6.9m parcels and more customers were satisfied with the delivery service they received from our partners Yodel, Arrow XL and Royal Mail
o Over a quarter (1.8m) of the total parcels delivered were picked up from Collect+ locations throughout the UK – a 20% year-on-year increase in click-and-collect
Shoppers now expect a mobile-first, personalised experience
- Customers opted for mobile convenience this Christmas:
o Mobile traffic to Shop Direct’s sites increased by 30% year-on-year
o Sales via mobile devices (smartphone and tablet) made up 70% of Very.co.uk’s online sales and increased 29% year-on-year
o Sales via smartphone made up 55% of online sales on Very.co.uk and increased by 45% year-on-year – making smartphone by far the most dominant and fastest growing channel
- Growth was fuelled by Shop Direct’s mobile-first strategy and focus on personalisation, with highlights including:
o The launch of Very Assistant – Very.co.uk’s in-app conversational user interface (CUI) – in November 2016, which made Shop Direct the first UK-based retailer to offer a WhatsApp-style CUI platform for customer service
o Littlewoods’ iOS and Android apps, which launched in early November, and are already five-star rated
o During Black Friday week we personalised our homepage, displaying individual customers’ favourite product categories based on their browsing and purchasing histories
o Cyber Fortnight deals offered to existing and new customers via social media, using our proprietary knowledge and supplemented by Canvas – Facebook’s immersive mobile ad technology
In 2017, artificial intelligence (AI) will super-charge personalisation
Investments in AI will create one of the most personalised online shopping experiences
- Working with IBM Watson, Shop Direct will introduce an AI-fuelled CUI platform, building on the success of Very Assistant – allowing customers to ask questions in their own words within a chat environment, with the AI technology providing the answers they are looking for
- A fully automated customer management engine will draw on the power of AI and machine learning to automatically intervene in individual customer journeys at the right time, in the right way, with the right offer – whether it be via email, push notification or on-site communication
- Shop Direct is also applying AI to our credit decisioning capabilities, meaning even faster, more personalised outcomes for our customers, and even better credit decisions and risk discipline for our business
Alex Baldock, CEO at Shop Direct, said: “We helped millions of families afford the brands they wanted this Christmas. It’s what makes us special and gave us another record festive period.
“Shoppers chose convenience; being able to shop via smartphone was top of their Christmas lists. Most of the growth in retail is coming from online, and the growth in online is coming from mobile. We continue to put mobile first – and it paid off this Christmas.
“Our customers don’t want to feel like one of the crowd; they expect a unique experience. It’s what we gave them before, during and after they shopped this Christmas. Now, we’re using the power of AI to take personalisation to the next level.
“Personal shoppers shouldn’t be the preserve of just a few, or for just special occasions. Over the coming year, we intend to start democratising this service, like we have with famous brands through our credit offering.
“Etailers have already overtaken stores when it comes to convenience. Now AI-fuelled technology like chatbots and virtual reality has the potential to leave bricks and mortar behind in offering the best personal service. We believe it’s the next big shift in retail and financial services, and we plan to be at the vanguard.
“We know the market will be tough in 2017; we’ve still got a lot of work to do and we’re nowhere near the full potential of this business. But we’re confident that by continuing to invest in what makes us special, we’ll deliver another record year of sales and profit in 2017.”