F&F is an affordable fashion brand owned by UK FTSE100 retailer Tesco, the second largest retailer in the world by revenue.  Launched in the UK in 2001, F&F fashion is sold through 2,300 stores in 23 different countries and online through their web site, with online orders delivered to nearly 80 countries

It’s a growth story fuelled by a close partnership with Cisco Consulting Services (CCS) to adopt innovative technology that is making multi-channel retail a reality.

Following consumer behaviour, Tesco identified that shopping habits are changing.  F&F wanted to respond so that consumers can shop “however they want, whenever they want or on whatever device they want”.   As the Internet of Things grows, this trend is accelerating.

They were faced with a business challenge:

“We worked out that 70% of our shoppers don’t actually shop online.  They don’t use our online website, yet they shop in the stores and are already loyal to the F&F brand”, explains Andy Beale, Head of Multi Channel and Digital Development, Tesco. 

Yet, the experience from the wider Tesco Group showed that grocery multi-channel consumers spent over twice as much as in store purchases only. 

Emily Shamma, Director for Clothing Online, F&F Clothing explains why: “A store has a great range, but it is actually smaller than we would like.  Now the brilliant thing about online is that it allows us limitless potential to showcase our full range.”

Typically, there is three times more inventory available online than even the largest stores. 

The challenge is bringing the multi-channel experience into store.

CCS have been working with the F&F team for 3 years, developing an innovation model to identify ways in which technology can improve the multichannel retail experience. Levering Cisco’s experience of different markets and emerging technologies, partners and contacts to allow a rapid innovation cycle often taking an idea to store trial within eight weeks.  

“What we needed help with from Cisco is understanding what are the right technology fits to help us to develop those products and to help us to deliver those customer experiences.” explained Beale. 

It’s a complicated ask for Cisco spanning their technology, marketing, services and commercial teams.

After introducingordering technology in store with touch screens that showcased the full product range, further investments have been made in an in-store Wi-Fi network for a greater customer experience. As consumers join the network, offers and promotions help drive awareness of the brand as well as utilising F&F online through scanning bar codes whilst being in store.  Sales made through the online ordering points have been incremental sales from new customers.

Emily Shamma– Director for Clothing Online, F&F Clothing

As more consumers are introduced to the F&F online offering through online order points some real tangible sales benefits are being achieved.

Beale explains:  “We have seen a halo effect as, where we have these online order points, we are beginning to see a much greater percentage of online orders in the stores’ catchment area.”

Our store colleagues have been supported by Hudl (an android tablet device) in larger stores which helped staff show consumers the website in conversation.  They use them to show the full range of products to the customer and share style advice to help them make their choices. The tablets are opening up the online world to the customers.

Accompanied by large digital screens, colleagues are able to project a product image, or share a fashion trend video, onto a screen whilst with the customer for a great selling experience.

Andy Beale - Head of Multi Channel and Digital Development, F&F Clothing

Every innovation is reviewed against agreed productivity measures.  It means projects fail fast or are successful quickly.  For those that are successful, the Cisco team ensure they can be scaled rapidly.

They are having real business benefits. The combined innovations are delivering improved online conversion rates, now averaging over 6%. 

F&F is a test bed for the wider Tesco group, with successful innovations being rolled out in other formats.

“I believe that if we don’t continue to innovate fast within F&F, and even within the wider Tesco Group, then we lose our competitive advantage.  We always need to be the first to our customers with new ideas, with new technologies, with new products”, believes Beale.

“Cisco will help us to uncover new ways to deliver multi-channel, eCommerce, digital technology for the right customer shopping experience and products and we look forward to continuing to work with Cisco in the years to come.”

And the strategy is delivering success today best summarised by Shamma:

“We had a fantastic Christmas in F&F online, delivered over 50% like for like sales growth; ahead of our targets“.

Beale continues “Having all of those technologies has led to increased online orders and at a continual rate so it’s been fantastic for our online business”.