Boohoo braved the storm that was Christmas 2018.
Amid the worst retail sales for the period in a decade, the Boohoo group (which also owns PrettyLittleThing and NastyGal) reported 44% overall growth in the last four months of the year.
So, why is Boohoo succeeding while others – even the mighty ASOS – are flailing?
One reason is the strategies the retailer uses across web and social to keep shoppers interested. Here’s a look at some Boohoo tactics and ecommerce features.
1. In your face offers
One of the main strategies used by Boohoo is seasonal discounts and promotions, which it promotes heavily online. Its offers are always included on both the homepage carousel as well as the drop-down menu, making them impossible to miss. Boohoo also uses push notifications to alert app users.
It has to be said, this is a brand that doesn’t always play by the rules. Recently, Watchdog called out the brand for continuing to run ‘limited-time only’ promotions after they were supposed to have ended (and the countdown timer had hit zero). Boohoo stated that it only continued to do so due to high demand, however, there’s no getting away from the fact that the ASA has previously ruled against companies found to be advertising misleading time-limited sales.
Regardless, Boohoo’s continued focus on promotions – which always coincides with seasonal events (that appeal to its target market) – are a highly effective way of driving sales online. Tapping into that ‘must-have’ mentality, it uses urgency to get shoppers buying.
2. Student ambassadors
With a target market of 16 to 30 year olds, Boohoo focuses on digital and social media rather than traditional forms of marketing. Alongside high-profile influencers (such as Love Island contestants), the retailer also capitalises on smaller-scale influence in the form of student ambassadors.
Its ambassador programme offers students free clothes, event invites, and other perks in exchange for them ‘repping’ the brand in college and university campuses.
Chosen students must have a decent presence online in order to qualify, enabling them to promote the brand to social circles both online and offline. This taps into the power of ‘microinfluence’, i.e. influencers with a smaller but highly engaged audience.
— boohoo.com (@boohoo) June 7, 2017
3. New-in every day
Despite the negative implications of fast fashion, there’s no doubt that it is still in big demand. Cheap prices and constantly refreshed stock means that loyal customers always have a reason to come back. Boohoo’s business model also helps – it uses what’s known as ‘test and repeat’ strategy, meaning it tests various new items on-site and re-orders based on what is the most popular.
The dedicated ‘New In’ category on the homepage, along with a ‘New In Today’ sub-section, tells shoppers that they’re a couple of clicks away from getting their hands on fresh stock – every day if they want it.
4. Focused collections
Another tactic that Boohoo uses is to cleverly collate items into specific collections. Recognising that its target market is young and low-income (a large portion of which are students), it groups items into categories like ‘festival shop’, ‘date night’ and ‘going out’.
With an extensive amount of items on-site, this helps to prevent users from getting overwhelmed, narrows down choice and reflects the lifestyles of the target demographic.
5. Smart recommendations
Boohoo product pages have call to action saying ‘looking for something similar’, which aims to keep customers browsing for as long as possible until they find the perfect item. Whether this comparison is done via classic tagging or image recognition, this UX is very similar to visual search and is an experience shoppers are becoming accustomed to as a way of narrowing down a large catalogue.
Alongside this feature, the ‘we think you’ll love’ section at the bottom of product pages is a more traditional recommends bar.
6. Refer a friend scheme
While ambassadors help to keep the brand front of mind for young consumers, the brand’s refer a friend scheme helps in a more direct way (prompting sales rather than awareness).
And as sign-up incentives go, it’s a pretty good one. Offering £5 off for the referrer, and 25% off first orders for the friend on the receiving end – it’s a deal that effectively tempts both parties into spending. Boohoo also seals the deal by offering further incentives, such as this month’s prize draw to win £500 worth of vouchers.
7. Social proof
Boohoo shrewdly recognises how influence can be highly effective for prompting sales. As such, it includes a dedicated ‘Instashop’ on its website, using social proof to urge shoppers to ‘shop the feed’.
Compared to standard product photos, these images help shoppers visualise how the items could work for them in the context of everyday life (albeit through a filter).
8. Shoppable posts
As well as using social proof to inspire, Boohoo also ensures that shoppers can easily buy items found and featured on Instagram. Followers can navigate to the ‘Instashop’ from a link in Boohoo’s Instagram bio. The journey from browse to buy is incredibly short, with users able to check out in just a couple of clicks.
Boohoo also makes buying from Instagram itself as easy as possible, by including the SKU number for each of the products featured.
9. Quick buys
It’s not just the Instashop that offers a frictionless shopping experience. Boohoo aims to make the path to purchase as easy as possible across the board with its ‘Quick Buy’ button.
This is a common feature, often called ‘quick view’ on other ecommerce sites, which Boohoo makes more immediate with the ‘buy’ call to action. This feature means that users can add items to their basket without even clicking onto individual products, allowing them to continue browsing on the category page.
10. Rich search results
Another way Boohoo help shoppers to narrow down items is to surface popular products and their imagery in the site search results. This means that if something immediately catches the eye, it takes just one click to arrive on an item (rather than multiple clicks).
The category search suggestions are also good too, offering multiple directions to the user.
11. Big-button style filters
If users are browsing via category pages, Boohoo ensures there is an easy way forward with its style filter buttons.
They are permanent and highly visible nature at the top of each category page, rather than in the faceted nav below, which means that there’s no fuss or wasted time – users can simply click on the styles they want to quickly filter.
12. Extensive delivery options
New research suggests that delivery is more important than ever when it comes to where consumers choose to shop. A survey by AlixPartners found that 60% of shoppers browse for products based on their preferred shipping options, while the maximum delivery time the average shopper will accept is now 4.5, down from 5.5 in 2012.
One things that Boohoo does well is delivery, but more specifically, in the amount of choice it offers shoppers. From standard delivery to various collection services, it provides a variety of options to choose from.
Granted, it does not offer free delivery as standard, however this is a deliberate ploy in order to tempt regular shoppers into ‘Boohoo Premier’ – which offers unlimited free delivery for £9.99 a year. For loyal fans, fully addicted to fast and cheap fashion, it’s an offer that’s hard to reject.