BHS needs a modern offering for online comeback to work

Mark JeffordDirector of Data Applications
October 24, 2016, 10:12 AM GMT+0

Traditional BHS customers aren't as internet savvy as the rest of the public. This could pose a problem for its online return

We have previously discussed where BHS went wrong – how the brand turned stale and left behind by its more modern rivals. The company’s fall led to the closure of 163 stores, the loss of 11,000 jobs and a huge pension deficit which is yet to be resolved.

However, it has already relaunched as an online-only shop, selling some of the previously popular items; primarily lighting and home furnishings to begin with. But what are the prospects for the reinvented BHS, and will its old customers follow it to the new platform?

YouGov Profiles data enables us to look at how those that were BHS customers behave online.

One point that stands out is that this group is more likely than the rest of the population to think the pace of technology a bit overwhelming (49% vs. 45%). They are also more likely to not consider themselves internet savvy compared to the national average (15% vs. 10%). Added to this, over three quarters (76%) of this group like to touch and feel products prior to purchase.

Former BHS customers also have residual fears over internet security and online payments. Over two thirds (64%) worry about privacy when using the internet, while a fifth (20%) of this group are hesitant about using their bank card to buy items over the internet.

Yet despite this, when former BHS shoppers do take the plunge and use the internet to make purchases they enjoy buying/browsing goods or services online more than the population as a whole (78% vs. 72%).

It is clear that BHS's new online presence has to allay fears over accessibility and security so they feel they can shop easily and safely.

But in order to make waves and not just tread water BHS has to show itself to be a modern brand and align itself with innovative methods in order to attract those that would have not considered shopping there before.

Of course, its owners will be hoping that consumers who grew tired of BHS in its final years are persuaded back by a mixture of the brand's history and a curiosity about its new-look offering.

When it was on the high street our data showed that consumers saw BHS as neither one thing or the other. It didn’t offer the perceived quality of its rivals but also its prices did not set it apart from the competition.

By focusing on specific products for its online relaunch it will hope to avoid the issue this time round.

This article originally appeared in City A.M.

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