After a nearly two-year e-commerce hiatus, Rachel Roy Direct LLC is back online. And with a mobile attitude.

The women’s luxury fashion designer and retailer previously was part of The Jones Group Inc. (which investment firm Sycamore Partners LLC purchased in 2013.) In 2014, apparel and manufacturing company Topson Downs bought Rachel Roy from The Jones Group.

That same year Rachel Roy shuttered its direct-to-consumer e-commerce site until it could relaunch it on a new platform. Until just a month ago, a consumer visiting RachelRoy.com could only peruse the site and look at new designs but could not make a purchase. A consumer wanting to purchase an item was redirected to the item on Macy’s Inc.’s e-commerce site, Macys.com.

After monitoring the traffic to RachelRoy.com during the hiatus period and considering the previous e-commerce site’s traffic, the retailer decided to design the new site using mobile-friendly responsive web design, says Amy Rapawy, senior vice president of marketing and e-commerce at Rachel Roy. Responsive design allows a single website to adjust to the size of the screen the visitor is viewing, which means a retailer can serve consumers on smartphones and tablets as well as PCs with a single website.

“50% of our audience was consuming us on mobile,” Rapawy says. “We wanted to make that the first experience. That’s how we approached design. We started designing for mobile and then translated that to tablet and then desktop.”

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On the previous mobile site, 20% of Rachel Roy’s revenue came in via mobile devices, she says.

“It’s too soon to give concrete numbers on the new site but it’s trending much higher than 20%,” she says.

Previously, Rachel Roy operated both a desktop site and a separate mobile site. That means when the retailer made any change its site, such as adding a product, it had to make the change to both the desktop code and the mobile site code. When relaunching its site, the retailer decided it wanted to improve efficiency and ensure consistency for consumers, regardless of the device they use.

“We had one team running a desktop site and one running your mobile site, and it really wasn’t that efficient,” Rapawy says. “You like to think the left hand talks to the right hand, but that’s not all the time.”

Since the retailer posts numerous editorial articles, videos and pictures to its site, ease of adding content was a big consideration for Rachel Roy when deliberating which ecommerce platform provider to choose, Rapawy says. Rachel Roy also employed e-commerce consultancy firm FitForCommerce to help decide, she says. The retailer chose WebLinc Corp. because its back-end system made it easy for the team to add and manage content, she says. After signing a contract with WebLinc, it took about seven months to develop the site, Rapawy says. The cost of the new site was significant, but less than $1 million, Rapawy says without revealing specifics.

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The switch to an easier to manage back-end system from WebLinc and responsive design has helped Rachel Roy whittle the number of internal employees needed to maintain the site to a handful of from the previous  20 to 30, Rapawy says.

A common stumbling block when launching a responsive design site is slow loading page times. During development, Rachel Roy discovered this and worked to optimize the site’s images and content. The average mobile page load time with the new responsive site is 3.97 seconds, Rapawy says.

For now, a mobile app is not on the roadmap for Rachel Roy, Rapawy says. Rachel Roy is unsure if it even wants an app, she says. Apps are quickly abandoned, and Rachel Roy wants to make sure any app offered would be relevant for its shoppers, Rapawy says. In fact, 26.7% of consumers will abandon a shopping app after one use, according to Adobe’s Digital Index for August 2015, “Mobile Benchmark Report”

“We’re not going to build an app just because my competitive set is building one,” Rapawy says. “We want to build something that lasts.”

Before even thinking about an app, the retailer first wants to see how consumers interact with the new site. For example, the brand may want to see which types of articles are the most clicked on the site, such as style trends or recipe tips, and may focus the content of the app on just one of the most popular topics, Rapawy says.

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The brand is letting consumers know about its return to e-commerce via digital advertising, its social media channels and brand partnerships. For example, this summer Rachel Roy products will be featured on skin care brand’s Kate Somerville site and vice versa, Rapawy says.

 

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