LONDON — The mobile phone is becoming an ever more potent tool, not just for browsing collections, but for luring customers into stores, according to Barbara Rybka, senior vice president, digital, at Gucci.

“Mobile is powerful, and we’re viewing it as a bridge between online and in-store,” she said during a question and answer session at the WWD Digital Forum here. While only 4 to 5 percent of luxury sales take place online — a number that’s expected to grow to 6 percent by 2017 — the impact of the online experience is much bigger.

Gucci rolled out its mobile optimized site and tablet in 2012 and into 2013, and by 2014 saw smartphones account for 44 percent of traffic. Mobile and tablet currently account for 58 percent of total traffic.

“Various studies place the influence of online experiences on store sales at over 45 percent. This is people researching online — and purchasing offline,” Rybka said, citing the high correlation between luxury shoppers and smartphone ownership.

According to a study by Altagamma-McKinsey across six countries, more than one in five shoppers researched a luxury product on a mobile device before making a purchase, and that number will grow as smartphone penetration increases, she said.

Rybka added that when Gucci rolled out its mobile site in the U.S., potential customers were using smartphones — rather than desktops — to navigate themselves to the nearest brick-and-mortar outlet, or to the one that carried a specific item they were after.

She said that in 2014, 57 percent of visits to the mobile site’s store locator came from a smartphone, while only 29 percent came from a desktop. In 2013, desktop was higher, accounting for 47 percent of visits, versus 40 percent for smartphone.

In 2014 in the U.S., Gucci also launched an omnichannel feature called Find in Store. “This gives customers who are shopping online the option to find a nearby store that carries that item. In the first quarter of 2015, 50 percent of those who accessed this feature came from mobile and tablet,” she said.

Gucci has high hopes for that service going forward.

“Today, it’s a simple implementation, but it has its own roadmap. Imagine the possibilities when you have access to inventory across your global network of stores, millions of visitors to your site, and the majority of that traffic is on a mobile device.”

Gucci has also piloted a scheme in some European stores to capture online sales within a brick-and-mortar environment. Called “in-store e-commerce,” it allows sales associates to sell items on that are not available in the store.

“We learned that the typical use case was a customer looking for a handbag or shoe which the store didn’t carry in their preferred color or size. The sales associate would perform an inventory lookup, and e-commerce would come up first — if it was available online,” she said.

Gucci found during the trial that smaller stores realized a higher penetration of e-commerce sales, with helping to up their inventory, while the time and cost of store-to-store transfers was reduced. In addition, buying online, in-store allowed customers “deep engagement” with the brand.

With the mobile refresh up and running, the brand’s next big project is re-designing the front-end experience on, which Rybka called a “major, all-consuming initiative.”

She said the current site launched in the third quarter of 2010, and the guiding principle was to create a “seamless, one-brand, one-store experience,” regardless of the interaction channel.

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