Social media at 4am. No kidding

Exporting is GREAT: Childrensalon

Michele Harriman-Smith, CEO of Childrensalon, is often up at 4am holding live chats with customers around the world.

2 women in childrensalon

It illustrates, she says, how customer service is at the heart of this luxury children's clothes retailer.

Since launching its website in 1999 – and surviving the collapse of the dot-com bubble – Childrensalon has invested over £2m in technology in its quest to provide the same level of service to online shoppers as it would to those visiting its sole bricks-and-mortar store in Tunbridge Wells.

“We aim to speak to customers like we do in the shop, in a friendly, helpful way,” says Michele’s daughter, Sorcha Harriman-Smith, Childrensalon’s digital & brand director.

Childrensalon embraced online chat and instant messaging early on

The company, which draws shoppers from more than 130 countries across Europe, the Middle East, USA, and Australia, embraced online chat and instant messaging services early on.

“That way, you get to know the person in a way you wouldn't through data or reports,” adds Sorcha, who is one of 13 family members working in the company. “We get an intimate understanding of what our customers like and what their preferences are. This varies hugely across markets.”

Childrensalon has invested heavily in warehousing, merchandising, and fulfilment technology,  launching websites in 7 languages; developing technology to manage multiple currencies; publishing a ‘Tiny Times’ blog; and revamping its website, with what it describes as “state-of-the-art responsive technology” to improve the user experience.

Sorcha adds: "We ramped up our in-house team with editors, stylists, user experience and customer experience designers, and digital marketers to create a site that is beautiful, inspiring and exceptionally functional across all devices."

The company has taken advantage of social media, with nearly 190, 000 Instagram followers

The company has also taken advantage of social media to interact with its customers. For example, it regularly posts photos of children and babies wearing its clothing to nearly 190,000 Instagram followers. It encourages customers to snap their children in their Childrensalon purchases and post these on its Instagram site, too.

Childrensalon now stocks children’s clothes from more than 270 brands, including Dior, Gucci and Burberry. Overseas sales accounted for 85% of its £28m total in 2014.

In the future, Childrensalon plans to further personalise its website for each individual visitor. It intends to develop its online checkout system, add more localised payment options, and expand its customer service team – who between them speak 25 languages – to operate 24 hours a day.

Sorcha says: “As our customer base grows, it is getting more and more diverse – meaning we have to increasingly customise the service we provide.”

But any technological developments that the company makes to achieve this aim will be customer-led, Sorcha emphasises: “It’s about the customer. We don’t get carried away with flashy gadgets. We make sure their needs are catered to like they would be in our shop”.