The apps developed by Chanel and Farfetch.

LONDON — As screen time grows and retailers face growing issues with stock, Qubit, the personalization software service, has become a useful backend tool for e-tailers.

“Personalization is even more relevant now, because a lot of our clients are using our technology to target loyal customers and to make sure, if they’ve got limited supply, they can point certain products to their shoppers,” said Graham Cooke, founder and chief executive officer of Qubit.

The company works with retailers from fast fashion, luxury and beauty, such as River Island, Topshop, Net-a-porter, Farfetch and the Estée Lauder Companies. Over the past few weeks, they said they’ve noticed that overall time spent on e-commerce sites have been down, but conversion rates are increasing.

“What we are seeing is that personalization is helping to drive that conversion rate up. We are seeing customers that know the brand visits the site. These are the customers that you know best, and can make up to two thirds of your revenue,” said Cooke.

According to Cooke, personalization can come in many forms, from targeted promotional campaigns for returning customers, to product recommendations built on a customer’s search and browsing history. The latter is the most popular and most effective.

With supply chains being hit due to the coronavirus, warehouses operating at a slower speed, and spikes in demand for COVID-19 related items, product recommendations can help retailers drive customers toward similar and related items that they do have in stock.

“There are many ways we can apply this: For example, retailers may only recommend certain products to their most loyal customers. For our other clients that are still maintaining distribution centers, the challenges are around supply chain. So we are helping our clients navigate all sorts of complex situations by using personalization,” Cooke said, adding that Qubit has allowed its pharmacy clients to be agile and tactical in responding to changing consumer patterns due to the spread of the virus.

The tactics have proven promising and Cooke said he has noticed impressive e-commerce numbers. Sales in the last seven days were up 15.6 per cent year-on-year with pharmacy, home and garden sales up 60 percent, and beauty up by 9.5 percent. The fashion category however, suffered. Cooke reports that fast-fashion sales are down 34.5 percent, and while luxury spiked last week by 19.5 percent, this week they went back down 12 percent with affordable luxury hit the hardest. Products in the $400 to $800 range were down 76 percent.

The drop in fast-fashion sales is to be expected. The category is driven by occasion wear and as customers are under quarantine and facing lockdown measures, there is no reason for them to shop by occasion.

“We’re not seeing a need to buy an outfit for work, an interview or party. Luxury is interesting however: It went up and down and we think that there was an immediate need by people who would have probably gone into the stores to purchase. What happened was they when the stores shut, the customers already wanted to purchase those items so they just decided to buy digitally,” Cooke said.

While the numbers are not favorable, not all is lost. Cooke thinks that fast-fashion brands can make up for lost time by being responsive with their merchandising strategy and driving occasion wear suitable for when lockdown measures relax.

“It’s going to be easier for fast-fashion brands because people will go back to doing ‘normal’ things that will drive occasion wear. Luxury is interesting, for some brands like Louis Vuitton, they will have more digital customers than they had before this happened. I think there’s going to be a set of luxury customers that will have converted to digital in this time and luxury needs to capitalize and drive greater loyalty there, it’s about doing extremely targeted strategies,” Cooke said.