Carrying out only one major technological overhaul is enough to put the fear of God into most retailers.

And an overhaul of every major system across the entire business over an 18-month period would make them a quivering wreck. However, that is exactly what Links of London is doing.

Martin Byrne, the head of FF Group UK & Ireland with responsibility for the Links of London global brand, is surprisingly calm about the prospect.

Byrne tells Essential Retail that the “highly ambitious plan” is possible through a “lot of planning, having the investment from the FF Group, and having good partners”.

The plan is to carry out as much of the overhaul in the calendar year as possible, and being flexible enough to lock down systems ahead of Christmas and Valentine’s Day before pushing on afterwards to ensure business is not disrupted during peak trading.  

Three-phase plan

Links of London will execute its new digital strategy in three phases. The first step involves re-platforming the web business from the legacy system onto Demandware – which was bought by Salesforce last year.

As part of this, a new order management system will be installed and a new email service provider will be introduced to enable the whole business to operate on one platform globally.

Phase two involves a shake up of its point-of-sale operation by moving onto the LS Retail software to allow a better capturing of customer data, which will feed into new ERP software.

The second part of phase two is the centralisation of data via QIVOS Cloud that will allow Links to have a single view of the customer and stock on a global basis.

After that phase three and the final piece of the puzzle will involve the development of a loyalty programme to enable Links to make the most of its CRM.

“It is not going to be a points based system like the big department stores and it is not going to be uber VIP,” says Byrne. “It is going to be fairly exclusive and is about treating our customers that have been loyal, and incentivising them to continue shopping with us.”

Byrne explains the major investment in the new digital strategy is due to FF Group chief executive George Koutsolioutsos being a “huge believer” in digital, and the company recognising that “unless we jump into the future we will be left behind”.

“The Links customer wants a high level of service, they want seamlessness,” adds Byrne. “The way they behave and shop is changing so quickly that I think there was a recognition that we needed to not tiptoe around this.”

eCommerce

Links of London has had an eCommerce presence for a decade and in recent years especially eCommerce has experienced significant growth.

The percentage of sales from eCommerce is now in the double digits and is expanding in the double digits, and Byrne believes eCommerce will “continue to grow in absolute terms and in share”.

“Our price point is not at the top end of fine jewellery where people are still a bit nervous about buying expensive diamond jewellery online,” says Byrne. “It is in a sweet spot where people are happy to buy online but it still feels special.”

Despite the increasing importance of eCommerce, the stores will remain an integral part of Links as it implements its ambitious new digital strategy.

“We don’t see ourselves as a fashion business, we are jeweller where you come and have your jewellery repaired, or we will clean your jewellery or re-string your sweetie bracelet,” concludes Byrne. “The stores will always have a very important place in the business.”