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Boosting brands - how Hugo Boss has fashioned itself a two brands digital marketing overhaul

Stuart Lauchlan Profile picture for user slauchlan April 9, 2024
Summary:
Hugo Boss has a two brands strategy as part of its wider Claim 5 initiative, says Aaron Baid, Lead E-commerce Product Manager.

Hugo Boss

How much do you know about retailer Hugo Boss? Not as much as you might think perhaps, as Aaron Baid, Lead E-commerce Product Manager, pointed out at Contentsquare’s recent Beat the Benchmark event: 

There is in fact, a Hugo and a Boss. We're not just Hugo Boss. They actually mean two different things. A lot of our testers are telling us that they were only aware of the main Hugo Boss brand for menswear. The majority of the people, 90%, told us that they didn't even know the different Hugo Boss brands existed in the first place. They're shopping, they're coming to our e-commerce store, and still not fully understanding what the difference between our brands is or even understanding that there is a difference between the brands in the first place.

So what is the distinction? According to the company’s own definition: 

WHAT IS BOSS? Emphasizes sophistication and professionalism, featuring classic styling tips and craftsmanship insights. - Leverages traditional channels like luxury magazines and corporate partnerships.

WHAT IS HUGO? Showcases edgy visuals and urban influences, focusing on street style inspirations and trend forecasts. - Utilizes digital platforms and influencer collaborations for a more dynamic approach.

At the beginning of 2023, Baid and his team were given an objective of boosting the brands as part of the retailer’s Claim 5 growth strategy. This aims to double its sales to €4 billion by 2025 and is based on five pillars: Boost Brands, Product is King, Lead in Digital, Rebalance Omni-channel, and Organize for Growth2.  Baid said: 

Boosting brands for us, and especially from an e-commerce perspective, is really about understanding more about Hugo and telling our customers a little bit more about Hugo and  giving a bit more of a story behind the brand itself.

Customer knowledge

The team conducted a three month in-store footfall study which threw up some interesting conclusions, he explained: 

When we were looking at the data and when we were looking at the split between retail and e-commerce in the first place, we could really see that a lot of the retail customers shopping at Hugo understood the brand, and not just understood the brand, but were also shopping a lot in the Hugo stores. The kind of division and market share that we had on the e-commerce side was really bending towards Boss and wasn't wasn't really finding its way into Hugo as well as it should do.

He added that the look and feel of the Hugo stores seemed appealing to customers: 

It felt like everything from the outside appearance of the store, the red colors, all of the different aesthetics, the marketing, the visual merchandising of the stores was dragging people into the stores. People felt a real genuine connection with that brand and it therefore made them go into the store. That wasn't something that was happening on the website.

What was needed was what Baid called a “two brand strategy” and work on that started at the point of checkout on the website: 

You're starting from the conversion funnel at the end and working your way back and really reverse engineering the way that you're working within that funnel and understanding a little bit more about why the customers abandon on those different pages, why they're not checking out, why they're leaving your PDPs (Product Detail Pages) etc. It will help you to find out a lot more about your brand and overall just a lot more about your customer in the first place.

Mobile only 

One thing that was determined early on was that the strategy would be “mobile only” - not mobile first, mobile only: 

We saw that 70% of our customers were in fact coming from mobile devices and 30% of them coming from desktop. Year on year from 2022 we can see that 67.1% of customers are coming from mobile, 69.7% come in from 2023, and I'm sure next year it's probably going to be somewhere in the realm of 75% or something like that because everybody now in 2024 is walking around with a personal laptop in their pocket. Their shopping is all on their phone now.

But taking one more step backwards and finding out a little bit more about the mobile traffic where they're coming from - they’re all coming now from social channels and also paid search. So, 78% of our brand new customers were coming from paid search and social channels. And that meant for us that the storytelling that we had that was coming from our social channels maybe wasn't matching what we had on the website.

He cited the example of influencer Teezo Touchdown, with his hoodie and nails in his hair, looking cool on Instagram. But when customers clicked on this they were taken to a web page with a man in a formal suit. The social-to-onsite experience didn’t match. 

Testing 

Boosting the brand effectively involved a lot of testing, said Baid: 

Testing and experimentation is number one on our team and it's really the most important thing. Every single day we're looking at numbers, numbers, numbers, a load  of quantitative data just thrown at us every single day. We've got AOVs (Average Order Values), we've got return rates, we've got conversion rates, we've got everything. Sometimes that story isn't told the way that we want it to be told. We have to find our way and navigate our way around these numbers in order to understand a little bit more about it.

And qualitative data is quality data, he argued: 

Qualitative data is so so so important when it comes down to e-commerce. So when we wanted to find out a little bit more about the emotion and about the actual feeling of customers when they were on our website, we decided to go with a third party to find out a little bit about usability testing and about how our customers were perceiving our brand.

We segmented a bunch of different demographics. We had them have a look at the website as it is today and we asked them a questionnaire about how you felt about the brand Hugo Boss, what you knew about the brand Hugo Boss, and overall what you would tell your friends and family about the brand Hugo Boss.

When talking about AB Testing, Baid’s team has adapted the idea of wins and losses to become wins and learnings as he noted: 

Overall, whenever it comes down to an AB test and whenever it comes up about finding anything out about your customers, you can never really lose. You never actually lose. You just create new variation and make some more learnings out of what you've already created in the first place. So wins and learnings is how we have decided to proceed.

Among the wins, he pointed to the introduction of a brand toggle which helps with customer engagement. On the learnings side, an attempt to promote the womenswear side of Hugo Boss didn’t work out as planned: 

A lot of people were bouncing because our customers were having to go into the men's section to try and find a pair of trousers rather than automatically being in the men's world every single time. It was causing a lot of frustration for our customers. So this was something that we had to switch up. This is something that we had to change and we're now keeping with this men's only navigation. 

Another aspect of the two brands strategy has involved tapping into internal resources. While 90% of customers might not have understood the difference between the brands, there’s an office just outside of Stuttgart with 3000 people who do. Baid explained: 

Every single person inside of that office, it is drilled into them day by day what Hugo is what Boss is. So who better to test on than those people in the first place?

Every Wednesday, Baid and one of his team have a video call with those people to harness their views: 

We dedicate one hour of recording our screens and then gathering some of the relevant feedback from different departments on what they did or didn't want to see as part of the two brand website for Hugo Boss. And that's when we were getting some really incredible feedback, especially from people in the Hugo branding department who really, really got down with the usability labs. 

A lot of people wanted to see an integration of more marketing content displayed directly onto the product listing pages. Just to break down this kind of clothing, clothing, clothing, clothing, clothing, et’s put a dude with nails coming out of his hair in the middle of the listing page. That'd be a good idea, really kind of enhance the overall visual appearance in the page. I think it adds a little bit of storytelling.

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