Edinburgh Woollen Mill ecommerce boss Richie Jones outlines new digital marketing approach

Edinburgh Woollen Mill is one of the best known names on the High Street and as part of the Edinburgh Woollen Mill Group is part of a diverse retail portfolio that also include women’s fashion retailer Jane Norman and value retailer Peacocks.

Richie Jones, head of ecommerce at EWM Group.

Richie Jones, who founded the digital agency Yucca 14 some years ago, has recently taken on the position of head of ecommerce at the EWM Group, where he is now heading up an ecommerce digital transformation strategy.

The Drum caught up with Richie as he spoke at a conference in London last week organised by Navigate Digital.

Since joining EWM Group, what has been your key focus for the brands from a digital marketing perspective?

The group portfolio of websites were a long way behind the sector in terms of all aspects of digital marketing. PPC was underperforming and being paid for on an outmoded percentage of media spend model, shopping feeds not optimised etc. Our new PPC agency approach with Navigate Digital has seen huge increases in sales and ROI.

SEO was relatively untouched, which means we’ve been able to build from a strong base, in previous roles I have had to get brands out of Google penalties before we could implement the strategy.

None of the brands were live on affiliate either, so we have recently launched in time for our retail peak and are already seeing good results and crucially new to brand visits and converters.

Our email is also seeing significant ROI and sales increases since switching to a supplier that has better open rates, behavioural retargeting and advanced segmentation oh and we can pay via invoicing now not on credit cards! (yes that was actually happening).

There has been a huge focus on conversion optimisation utilising real time marketing techniques, product recommendation engines and most recently onsite search which is aiding conversion.

EWM Group consists of three distinct and well-known brands targeted at three distinct markets – Edinburgh Woollen Mill, Peacocks and Jane Norman – where does digital marketing sit within each brand’s marketing strategy?

Since the launch of multichannel (including Click and Collect) our digital strategy sits at the very heart of the brand marketing piece. Our mass market main stream brand Peacocks has had a great response to click and collect since launch and a brilliantly high number of new to brand customers who previously hadn’t purchased online with us.

Edinburgh Woollen Mill has the fastest growing tablet user base, we think this is customers switching out from heavy/old laptops they bought probably around the time of Windows Vista launch for the convenience of a tablet.

Jane Norman which is now an online pure play brand has the most engaged online audience and we are looking to really do some innovative work online in the coming months.

Which social media channels do you utilise and what does each on offer your brands?

Facebook is our biggest social channel at the moment, but Instagram has the highest interaction level. We are watching intently at Instagram’s paid ads offer. Twitter is also important for us and there is certainly more we can do with Twitters geolocation functions on targeting bricks and mortar footfall into store.

We have standalone team members who liaise closely with our buying teams to get the back story on trends and key lines that tap into an emerging trend.

Do you take a different approach/tone of voice for each brand?

Yes absolutely. We look to reflect what a customer would experience in store. For EWM the customer experience is very one to one, with staff members often knowing the names of their repeat customers. Using simple personalisation EWM will soon look to replicate a similar experience online.

Peacocks and Jane Norman both need to sound more irreverent and with Jane Norman in particular immediacy is imperative to get cut through on consumers busy timelines.

Does social media have a different function for each brand?

They are relatively similar, but EWM seems to have a bigger customer service role.

How do you measure the success of your social media activity?

If using paid media we track through to conversion, otherwise its simply using conversions by traffic source, but that is set to get more advanced next year with our attribution modelling.

What are your thoughts on how iBeacon technology could be integrated and used to drive footfall and sales in your retail stores?

We are implementing some test iBeacons through our PowaTag partner, the plan is to have these working as an extension of our mobile strategy. The trick with iBeacons will be to keep them high proximity based so not use them to spam people walking past (like some affiliates do now) more on a super local basis so a promo could be sent to a customer as the approach a point of sale.

Many retail commentators say that the High Street’s days are numbered, as a senior marketer for three well known High Street brands, what would be your response to that?

I’d contest that this isn’t the case. The retailers that have embraced multichannel and the convenience that it offers to the customer are reaping the benefits. By joining up the on and offline customer journey the savvy retailers can leverage their bricks and mortar locations. With Peacocks we are particularly lucky as our smaller stores in more provincial towns can now offer our customers the extensive online options in store.

The convenience to the customer is brilliant and the opportunity for incremental sales is also very useful.

What are the challenges you have faced in preparing to trade internationally?

Language will always be the main challenge. Get that wrong and the credibility of the entire country specific offer goes out of the window. There are also some concerns around postal system security in certain markets (think Russia) which given its scale could cost the country dearly.

The cultural returns rate in Germany is a concern but once worth working with given its scale.

You have worked agency and clientside – which do you prefer and how do the challenges differ?

I prefer client side because the opportunity to make a significant impact and a difference to the direction of a business is much bigger. The chance to work on the same brands day in day out to achieve incremental performance gains is also exciting.

Agency side also has its benefits of course. I did love the creativity and the buzz of winning pitches I will always cherish but I don’t miss the ‘will we lose our key client to inhouseing or another agency’ paranoia.

Having seen the digital agency market place consolidate and mature I do still think the real innovative agencies out there are the ones taking the risks with performance based payment models or pushing the new channels such as mobile in an truly integrated way are the ones that are nailing it.

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