Executive Q&A: Bebe Gives its Customer Data a Makeover

EVP and Chief Digital Officer Erik Lautier shares the company's strategy for improving cross-channel experiences and winning back customers.
Customer Experience

Fashion retailer Bebe is undergoing a much-needed makeover. With mall traffic disappearing and shoppers moving to online stores, the nearly 40-year-old clothier is under pressure to reinvent its customer experience and re-engage shoppers. 1to1 Media spoke with Bebe Executive Vice President and Chief Digital Officer Erik Lautier and Qubit Chief Executive Officer Graham Cooke about Bebe's turnaround strategy.

1to1 Media: What's your customer strategy? How do you want to improve the customer experience?

Erik Lautier:
I'd like what we do online to mirror what we do in the store from a personalization perspective. The goal in working with Qubit is to replicate the sense of in-store personalization where an associate at a store recognizes me and steers me in the right direction of relevant products based upon the types of stuff she knows I've bought before. I really believe in that personal one-to-one approach. I've got a stack of thank-you cards on my desk that I'm writing and sending to new customers who shopped on Bebe.com.

What led you to work with Qubit?

When I joined Bebe in January 2014, the approach of our web business was very one-size-fits-all. No matter who you were, you were seeing the same stuff. That was a problem. There are a lot of things that you'd expect an e-commerce site to have that we didn't have and my priority was to identify those things and get into execution mode. To do that, we wanted to begin with a vendor that could help us test things. That's why we chose Qubit, which we began working with in the end of June last year.

Can you give me an example of how you've improved your customer experience so far?

The first thing we did was we tested the eight megabytes of video that we had on our homepage. The videos were part of a creative agency's redesign of the site that happened before I joined Bebe. The hypothesis was these videos would inspire people and make them more likely to shop. The problem was none of this was tested before it went on the site. It was all art and no science.

We needed to know whether the videos matter or are they just sucking up bandwidth and slowing down the load speed of our site? Within about three weeks, we found out that these videos were costing us money and resources but were not contributing to the user experience. Our customers aren't engaging with the videos or getting anything from them. So we quickly removed those videos. Another thing we did was look at the free shipping threshold. A lot of brands offer free shipping for purchases over a certain amount. We wanted to find out if there's an optimal amount to offer free shipping. We looked at a number of levels that could be the answer and came up with our optimal threshold, which is $100.

How have these changes impacted your bottom line?

EL: We've seen significant improvements in our conversion rates. For example, our desktop conversion year-over-year was up 18 percent and our mobile conversion was up 93 percent. This is looking at the six-month period of July through December of 2014 when we began working with Qubit versus the same period in 2013.

What about connecting online and offline customer behaviors? How do you connect those data points?

Graham Cooke:
The methodology that our customers are using is an identifier like an email address, a loyalty card, or customer ID. We believe this is the most customer-friendly way. You don't want a method for detecting automatically that this is the same person across channels, because that gets into the creepy realm. What you want to do is enable customers to make the decision to have a continuous journey across devices and channels by opting to identify themselves by logging in. We're still in the early days of this type of solution but that's what we see working best.

To what extent is Bebe providing a cross-channel experience?

We do have a holistic view of the customer. We have a database that stores the online and offline orders, and we have a loyalty program called Club Bebe, which is aggregating our customers' behaviors across multiple touchpoints. Something we're working on with Qubit that hasn't gone live yet is letting Club Bebe members know they have a balance that they can redeem for rewards whenever they log onto our site. When they get to the homepage, for example, we can let them know that they've got $10 that'll expire soon. We're very excited about this because it's tying together their online and offline behaviors.

What other platforms are you using to connect your customer data? Would it make sense to work with Datalogix and BlueKai, which are now on Oracle's platform?

That would make a lot of sense for us. I hired a CRM director in July and she's been working on a number of things. I'll be frank, the company recently restarted from scratch in a number of ways, so the CRM picture for us is similarly cloudy. We have data but we don't have the right tools yet to really make great use of it. We are meeting with the types of companies that you've mentioned although we haven't moved forward with anyone yet.

Do you have any plans to use iBeacon technology in your stores?

I would put that after all the CRM stuff. We had a site that we weren't particularly happy about-our customers have been a bit lost-and so we're going to bring people back first. We're focusing on customer acquisition, loyalty, and CRM, before the direct connection between online and offline experiences and iBeacons will be part of that.