Will BHS International Build High Standards Online?

What does BHS need to do to thrive in its new home online?

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What does BHS need to do to thrive in its new home online?


Will BHS International Build High Standards Online?

What does BHS need to do to thrive in its new home online?

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Like a phoenix rising from the ashes, the new BHS International launched exclusively online. The launch is all the remarkable given the short period of time that has elapsed since BHS went into administration and some of its assets and brand were acquired by the Al Mana Group, including its website.

With a recognisable brand name that brings with it a loyal customer base numbering almost 1.2 million, BHS International has, on paper at least, many advantages over a typical new start-up. However BHS International is no typical start-up as the weight of expectations will invariably shape and influence the direction of the online venture.

While the phoenix analogy certainly invokes a sense of resurgence and renewal, the challenge facing BHS International is immense. So, what issues might the online operation encounter and can it set new standards amongst e-commerce retailers?

Turning a challenge into an opportunity

The media commentary in the run up to the launch talks about how the new operation would be nimble, efficient and operate with a streamlined workforce.

Nimble and efficient are but two adjectives that any online etailer must embody if it is to survive and thrive in the e-commerce space. A successful online retailer must equally be adaptive, responsive, innovative, customer-focused and more besides.

The list of superlatives is endless but what is not endless is the patience of the end user. Today’s online consumers are more demanding, less forgiving.  Experiences and expectations are closely intertwined and one impacts the other.

The challenge is whether BHS can woo and retain the interest and trust of former customers as well as attract a new generation of converts.

Nostalgia will only get you so far. The 1.2 million former BHS customers may reminisce of the BHS of old but BHS International is a very different kettle of fish. First, it is an exclusively online entity.

BHS online

Will BHS be able to hang on to capricious online customers?

That means that there can be no room for error with the performance of its digital platform. Second, its current product range is limited to some 500 homeware items across bedding, curtains, rugs, cushions, bathroom mats, towels and lighting.

While there are plans to extend the range, those plans may have to be accelerated and modified depending upon market conditions. That could impact the performance of the website – and that in turn could impact the user experience and functionality.

Third, other competitors will almost certainly have plans to attract and appeal to the 1.2 million former BHS customers and BHS’ only response is through the features, functionality and user experience of its website.  If it is to ward off the competition, it must be able to sustain a high conversion rate amongst visitors to its site. Therein lie both the challenge and the opportunity.

From small acorns grow mighty oaks…

Turning the challenge into an opportunity will hinge largely on BHS’ ability to gain better insights about its customers’ online interactions as well as an ability to plan and manage the performance of its digital platform through the application of data science.

It is the latter that has the potential to set a new standard amongst ecommerce retailers and enable BHS to compete with the established brands by using detailed analysis of user behaviour and conversion to provide patterns, trends and actionable intelligence.

For a business that is utterly reliant on a single channel, the importance of understanding the impact that website performance has on customer interaction and the manner in which customers engage with the site cannot be overstated.


Harnessing data can give online retailers the edge

The assumption is often that those pages that load slower need to be optimised first however data analytics provides a detailed view of the customer journey, the pages they visit more often and the order in which they navigate through the site, allowing you to prioritise and optimise those pages and sections that ultimately lead to the greater conversion ratio.

Rather than continue with the existing website, the new owners of the BHS brand invested in a new digital platform. This may enable BHS International to steal a march on rivals as it not held back by old legacy systems.

Rather it has the potential to apply data science techniques, such as Conversion Impact Score to determine which web pages matter the most to its bottom line. Data science is an approach that is built upon and draws from real user data.

This allows ecommerce retailers to gain a valuable understanding and detailed insight into their conversion funnel by correlating page load times with other metrics to give an accurate picture of what parts of your site need to be optimised first and in what order.

For BHS International, the application of data science may allow the fledging site to compete more effectively, to be nimble and efficient and in the process set a new standard by which ecommerce sites are judged.

That may see the phoenix not simply rise from the ashes, but sprout wings and take flight.

Vincent DeGennaro is General Manager EMEA of SOASTA.

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Will BHS International Build High Standards Online?

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