A website that is dressed to impress
David Llamas, chief executive of discount luxury fashion etailer Cocosa, talks to Jonathan Bacon about the business’s revamped digital strategy.
Marketing Week (MW): Cocosa relaunched its website this month. What changes have you introduced?
David Llamas (DL): The relaunch of the website is the physical expression of the brand relaunch. We are going back to the genesis of Cocosa and confirming its position in the high-end, luxury market.
In addition to the new photography, we have new features, such as zoom functions, customer recommendations and a responsive design to ensure the site is fully compatible with all devices.
Our business model will remain the same in that Cocosa will continue to offer time-limited sales on discounted luxury goods. But we are also going to extend the offer into new categories to grow our lifestyle proposition. At the moment, those categories are more of a complement to our main fashion offer but our customers’ response to those categories has been very positive.
MW: What do you feel sets Cocosa apart from other discount luxury fashion etailers?
DL: The main thing is that we are a true partner with the brands we sell. So, compared with other competitors in the flash sales market, we don’t buy in the ‘grey market’. That’s because we want to interact with the brands as a partner and represent them. The brands themselves are our most important customers.
We feel we can execute the sale of these brands in a way that no one else can in the market because of the quality of the photography that we produce - we use our own studio - and because of the quality of our editorial content.
Cocosa was founded by Bauer Media as a project linked to Grazia magazine. When [former Harrods owner] Mohamed Al Fayed acquired the business last year, we kept that original editorial team within Cocosa so that it means that we are still able to produce high-quality content.
We believe we offer a luxury, high-end customer experience from end to end: you only need to look at the quality of our packaging, for example. So we think we are the best option for representing these brands and working with them on a partnership basis in this particular sector.
MW: How does the in-house editorial content support the business?
DL: It gives us a sense of authority and an additional way to engage with the consumer. It’s also something that the brands we offer appreciate because it means the site is not just a hard sell. We can also talk about the brands and their values through high-quality editorial content that engages the customer on a different level.
MW: How is Cocosa catering for mobile customers?
DL: Mobile has been growing substantially for us in recent times, as it has for all ecommerce businesses. We’re very excited about the new, ‘responsive’ design of the website as it will give us a leading edge in the industry. We will be one of the first ecommerce businesses in the UK to have responsive design in play and that essentially means the website will adapt itself to any device to make it device-optimised.
We were lucky that, coincidentally, as we were relaunching the website, we had the opportunity to bring in this technology. Everyone in the market knows how much mobile has been increasing and we see the same trends as anyone else. We’re very hopeful that the responsive design will provide a much better experience than what was there previously.
MW: You joined Cocosa earlier this year after nine years at Harrods, finishing as chief technology officer. How has your previous role helped you in your current one?
DL: I learned an awful lot at Harrods about the luxury market and that kind of background is very suitable for a business like Cocosa. Harrods is a great school for understanding the importance of products, brands and the customer experience. The most important partnerships we have at Cocosa are with the luxury brands, so you need to understand from their point of view what they are looking for.
MW: Does Cocosa mainly sell to returning customers or is it able to attract a steady stream of new customers?
DL: The numbers tell us that in terms of repeat purchases, average spend and frequency of purchase, our customers are very loyal. But in addition to that, we have been driving the acquisition of new customers in the past few months. That has allowed us to grow the membership and database quite significantly, which you can see in our traffic figures. We have more than doubled the site’s traffic in the past few months. It has been overwhelming how much the traffic is growing in comparison to six months ago. Customer acquisition is mainly driven by PPC [pay-per-click] advertising, which gives us high-quality acquisition. It’s also driven by referral traffic [from other websites]. With referrals, the volume of new customers is not nearly as high as PPC but the quality and return on investment is very high.
MW: What is Cocosa’s approach to social media?
DL: Social media is one of the channels we use, obviously, but it’s something we’re going to work on more intensively from now on as part of our overall acquisitions strategy. Our main channel of customer acquisition over the past few years has been PPC but there are huge opportunities with social media for us to explore. It’s something we have been working on for the past few months and we’re now going to work on it more intensively.
MW: It has been reported that Cocosa is planning to launch a full-price site to go alongside the current discount site. Is that true?
DL: I think the talk about going full-price came about during the time of the previous management team. I can only say that if Cocosa were to launch a full-price website, it would probably be under a different positioning to traditional ecommerce.
I don’t think there’s much point creating another full-price, high-end website in the UK. Some exist already and it’s nothing revolutionary. So it would have to be under a different model. But nothing has been announced under the current management team regarding a full-price site.
April 2012-date: Chief executive, Cocosa
2005-2011: Director of IT, Harrods
2003-2005: Head of enterprise applications, Harrods
Before 2003: IT retail consultant, various roles
David Llamas on the present and future of ecommerce
1. Ecommerce in general is an ever-evolving market. What was new yesterday is no longer new tomorrow. That applies not only to technology but to business models. If you look at traditional ecommerce - the likes of Amazon, eBay and so on - those business models have been growing substantially but not as much as some of the emerging business models that have hatched over the past few years. So all online retailers need to learn to change and adapt because it’s a constantly evolving market.
2. The ecommerce industry has an amazing opportunity to expand internationally as new, fast-growing emerging markets evolve as well. The make or break for any business will be its ability to understand local requirements and execute them impeccably.
The more the UK ecommerce market evolves and matures, the more saturated it becomes as well, which means your marketing costs get more expensive because everyone is fighting for the same traffic.
Luxury brands aren’t interested in an over-saturated market so those businesses are going to have to learn how to reach out to other geographies and other people in a very strong way.