Monday, August 18, 2008

RL Magazine - Know the Code

I was just browsing the MyMart blog and spotted that Ralph Lauren has set up its own m-commerce site and is allowing customers to buy from it from a small selection of their ranges. You can reach the mobile site via QR code, texting in to a shortcode or going directly to the URL

There is a common misunderstanding by high end fashion companies that their customers somehow aren't digitally minded and wouldn't dream of using the internet. I've no idea where they get that from but it certainly isn't true - Net-A-Porter and Vertu are testament to that. So I'm very pleased to see that Ralph Lauren is getting in on the mobile act.

I think the QR code thing is a bit of a red herring at the moment. The readers aren't embedded on most phones and it's a bit of a hassle to get the reader, download it, remember where it is, open the reader application, open the shutter and then take the picture of the barcode when it would be easier to text in to a shortcode or go directly to the URL. [Of course, it's a different thing once we have the software pre-installed and deeply embedded so our phones *know* when it can see a QR code and automatically give us the option to use it or not.] I digress.

I'm not a Ralph Lauren shopper (well save for a lovely pair of RL shades I got at TK Maxx and a liking for the RL fragrance Romance) so am probably not the target audience. The thought of wearing crisp white pants and a blue, red and white polo shirt fills me with dread. But I know others feel differently about these things otherwise RL wouldn't be doing nearly so well.

Screenshot0011Anyway, I thought I'd take a closer look at the site to see what I liked (or not) about it.

First off we have the opening page. And it's just a list of banners rather than words or words and banners. And they're very difficult to read as the writing on them is tiny. If you're not familiar with RL, these may be a bit confusing anyway. There are written links further down but they don't relate to the banners and don't shed much more light.

Rather confusingly, the first Screenshot0012option is for the QR code information. Now it seems to me that if you have found your way to the RL mobile website already, the chances are you don't need to use a QR code to get to it. As you can see below, the introduction doesn't help much either as you have to do more clicking to get to the information.

Leaving that to one side, I have a glance around at some of the other pages.



 Screenshot0017 It's not particularly inspiring and I'm not convinced huge amounts of time was spent putting the offering together.

The Definitive Guide to Ralph Lauren Style is useful and is good 'snacking' information.

The sales info is not terribly exciting - they're assuming the customer knows all about the brand and collections already, and quite frankly, I have no idea about the different collections so it would be useful to have a few words (and I mean just a few) to explain the difference between RL_Classics and The Ralph Lauren Collection as an example.

Now maybe most of the customers who find the RL mobile site are existing RL customers and know what they're after and what they're looking for without having to browse around. In which case, the site needs a search facility. The scenario is that you're looking at Vogue, Tatler or some other fashion magazine and see the Ralph Lauren advertisement with the bag you absolutely must have *now* and you're short on time. A search facility to enable that sale would be invaluable. And when you consider the price for each item in stock, a handful of sales are very important (dresses at $2,000, sandals at $700 and an imported bag at almost $20,000 and the basic polos at $75 it soon mounts up).

On the actual shopping page for the polo shirts, you were given the option as to what colour you might want and asked you your size, but there was no link to a size guide. And for the really expensive items, wouldn't you want a bit of personal service and be connected by telephone to your local sales advisor?

So, 10/10 for bothering to do something on mobile but 5/10 for implementation. More thought needs to go into who the customer is, when they might use a service like this and what service that should actually be.

RL Magazine - Know the Code