“FOXFORD has woven a tale throughout the world since 1892, and has been created and developed by visionaries, creators and community.” The company’s traditionally woven blankets have given so much comfort down the generations. More recently, the company reinvented itself as a luxury brand specialising in Irish throws and scarves, bedlinen and soft furnishings. Today, FOXFORD combines tradition and modernity, promising visitors who come to the store, the woollen mill and the café a unique experience. However, it has taken some time for the perception to catch up with reality and for FOXFORD to extend its target market and demographic reach. Online commerce has been key to this change in perception and winning new customers.
The challenge was easy to state but not so easy to solve: how to replicate this personalised shopping experience that customers enjoy when visiting the store and handling quality woven fabrics.
The brand itself is strongly rooted in its physical environment, named after the small town of Foxford by the river Moy in County Mayo, where the company has served the community for 130 years. FOXFORD has had an online presence since 2016 and has created an attractive eCommerce shop front. However, despite an upswing during the Covid-19 pandemic, the conversion rate remained low. “An eCommerce platform provides the shop front, but it does not provide the kind of personalisation or individual service that you get with a shopping assistant in our store,” explains Tracey Smith, FOXFORD’s Digital Marketing Manager. “We made amazing progress, commissioning our own photography for the website, which takes you close to experiencing the feel of quality textiles like cashmere,” Smith says. But online sales conversions remained stubbornly low, at about 1%. FOXFORD was ready to take things to the next level.
Tracey Smith met the Shopbox AI leadership team when visiting Retail Excellence Ireland in September 2022. “It was great to meet an Irish company offering an AI-powered shopping solution,” Smith says. “We were not actively looking for one, but the proposition made complete sense. When people visit our bricks-and-mortar store they meet a skilled and knowledgeable shop assistant who provides a highly curated experience,” she says.
“Shopbox AI understands retail and the importance of helpful but in-intrusive shop assistants. They spoke our language, promising to duplicate this experience through an AI shopping assistant.” -Tracey Smith, Digital Marketing Manager, FOXFORD
The decision to invest in Shopbox was an easy one. “So much of digital marketing is intangible. But with Shopbox there was abundant quantifiable proof, so once the company leadership saw the figures, they needed no further convincing.” The implementation of Shopbox coincided with another decision, not to offer any special Black Friday promotions. “We decided the path forward was personalisation rather than blunter forms of commercialisation like special offers,” Smith explains. “We wanted to see an uplift all the year round. When people buy from FOXFORD it is a considered purchase, not something bought on a whim or because there’s a price discount,” she adds.
Things then moved fast. Shopbox went live on 11 November.
“I have worked on many implementation projects with several different eCommerce platforms, and I know that such projects can be painful. But implementing Shopbox was the easiest thing we’ve ever done.”
There was a little design work and customisation needed to align with FOXFORD branding and that was it. FOXFORD was up and running in just four weeks and before Black Friday/ Cyber Monday.
Delighting customers, creatively
The Shopbox implementation initially consisted of a curated homepage, the AI shop assistant and the “find similar products” carousel, which is based on product descriptions, names, colours and styles etc. as well as the “recommender” carousel, which presents products based on captured data.
“Shoppers started seeing items that had been buried in traditional merchandising. Exactly the kind of thing a really good shop assistant would do: understanding what the customer is looking for and responding in creative and sometimes unexpected ways.”
“That’s the best way to delight a customer,” Smith adds.
FOXFORD was also one of the first Shopbox AI customers to take advantage of the Shopbox Grid Builder to create special pages personalised to each individual shopper. The Grid Builder enables the rapid creation of a curated home page, but in this case the personalised page is entirely populated with products aligned to the tastes and preferences of an individual: fabrics, colours, designs. For example, if you choose a duvet that is of a certain colour and style, your personal page will recommend other bedroom soft furnishings that complement it. This takes AI-powered shopping to a hyper-personalised experience.
An uplift in a normally flat month
The real proof of the Shopbox effect came in January 2023. The period from late December, immediately after Christmas, and through the first two weeks of January is normally a flat month for discretionary purchases.
“I remember coming back into the office after Christmas and being very pleasantly surprised by the uplift in the sales figures. I’ve never seen that in January before, even during Covid. People just kept shopping.”
“And this is without any special sales promotions, which add to the cost of sales, and without intrusive chatbots and widgets on the website, thereby improving the customer experience. It’s all driven by people going on their own shopping journey and making their own choices with the help of an invisible AI shopping assistant,” adds Smith.
The most dramatic and immediately visible benefit of Shopbox was a threefold uplift in sales conversions, comparing January 2023 with January 2022. Overall, revenue generated by shoppers who engage with FOXFORD via Shopbox is 3.6 times higher than revenue generated by other shoppers.
“Currently the engagement rate with Shopbox is 35% of visitors to FOXFORD.com but they generate 62% of our online revenues.”
“These results are unheard of since we went online. Everyone at the company is thrilled with them,” Smith concludes.