How Desigual is adapting to its mobile first customers with A/B testing, web and email

Image from Desigual welcome email to new subscribers.

In the past 18 months, Desigual, the flamboyant and colorful Spanish fashion/retail brand, has seen mobile become the dominant platform for both web traffic and email opens, and become a major influence on offline sales.

The retailer is continually testing and adapting its web design, content, personalization, campaigns and email strategy to meet this new mobile-first customer base.

Borja Castresana, Desigual’s Global Chief Marketing (CMO), tells ClickZ:

 “We have been talking about mobile for a long time but it has become the most used digital device in the last 18 months for Desigual. Today more than of half of the web traffic is mobile and a quarter of the digital turnover is mobile.”

As with most high-street retailers, most products are still purchased via Desigual’s 500 physical stores and thousands of concessions, but digital (led by mobile) plays an important role in the path to purchase of the majority in-store purchases.

“Total digital sales are 10% of turnover, but mobile or digital is key because we know that a lot people have a mobile/digital behavior before buying offline. More than 50% of our offline sales are digitally influenced, and as much as 70% in top countries, like France.”

 How does Desigual know this?

“We track all our spending in dollars – together with our media agency Starcom – and calculate what degree of influence each of our investments has directly on the sales,” Castresana explains.

“So, for example, what proportion of sales is influenced by TV? But also to what extent does TV influence search? What are the indirect effects, and how do you explain that as a percentage of the sales?

“By analyzing the statistics, you end up with a picture: what percentage of unique users – and what percentage of web traffic – impacts sales? Then going backwards: what percentage of the different sources of investment influence unique users and web traffic?

“We do this every six months so we keep up to date with the pace of change.”

The image below shows how Desigual’s subscriber email campaign, landing page and product pages look on a smartphone.

Mobile screenshots of Desigual subscriber email campaign for accessories, landing page and product page for a bag.

Digital transformation

To meet the demand from its mobile-first customers, Desigual is undergoing transformation that is both a structural and digital.

The recognition that shoppers use multiple channels to engage, research and shop with Desigual, has led the retailer to create a new team that spans the two businesses of retail stores and e-commerce and helps to break down the traditional barriers between the two, formally independent, business units, explains Castresana.

“There are still separate retail and ecommerce departments. But there is now also an Omni channel team and we have created the new role of Chief Client Officer to try to break these silos.”

Everything is also being rethought on the marketing and creative side.

“We are changing how web designers work; how our agencies work; and we are changing how we measure… because mobile is more complex to measure.

 “It is also about creating a learning environment between ecommerce, web design and agencies and creating a roadmap so you know what to do first.”

Testing, testing

Testing plays a major role in this process of digital learning. A/B testing, where different groups of customers are shown two variants of a webpage or email to, is particularly important:

“We are changing the way we do testing. You have to find your own way – this is part of challenge. You can learn from other companies’ experience, but you need to test it yourself.

“We do a lot of A/B testing on the website. We are trying to eliminate steps [on the path to purchase], to create a seamless experience, with less clicks.”

Mobile-first email

Image shows three mobile screenshots of the introduction to the subscriber email and two recent campaings.

Email is an important part of Desigual’s customer engagement strategy. See above for three examples of recent email campaigns as opened on a smartphone.

Email has seen one of the biggest shifts to mobile, explains Castresana:

 “We know that are emails are mostly read on mobile – around 70 percent.

 “So we have asked ourselves what is the best time to send an email? What formats and creative works best taking into account they will be mobile read? We use A/B testing to see what works best.  

“[For example, we suggest:] let’s send it at 7 am so it is the first email that you read when you wake up… And yes, this is a good time.”

Which formats work best with mobile email? The retailer continually mixes it up.

“We combine a full length email – where you have the full story that brings you to a certain landing page for a purchase – with other creatives in the email where you put a teaser on the email and the story is continued on the website.

“There is no good or bad – there are moments for each. It depends on campaign and on past customer behavior: i.e. have you already purchased that product or type of product?”

So for example, starting in September, the retailer ran a campaign for its Exotic Jeans brand:

“One of our biggest communications is the Exotic Jeans family. We used an Israeli transgender model – called Talleen Abu Hanna [to head the campaign]. She made a video clip dancing in the desert from that we have photos and interviews.

 “The campaign starts with a teaser sent to the world in email and social media with a short 5, 15 or 20 second video/ad – depending on the format. It says: “Exotic Jeans is here with Talleen. Discover more.”

 “[This clicks through to the website] with the full video with other models. You could discover the making of; discover interview and could see Talleen wearing all the different outfits.”

The Exotic Jeans promotional video is shown below:

“Every other day during the two week campaign, we were enhancing the campaign and segmenting people who are new to the campaign against those who had already visited the landing pages and bought one of the products.

“If you have purchased, then we stop bothering you with further emails and retargeting otherwise we keep enhancing hooks to find the right interest trigger to keep you discovering more on our website.”

Targeting and personalization

Email marketing is targeted, based on prior consumer digital behavior.

“We target on past purchase behavior – on consumer life cycle – not just purchase lifecycle, but also [taking into account if customers] are new to the website,” says Castresana.

“Are you a first time or second time purchaser, or are you a VIP who has purchased six times already?

“We personalize by category, showing you categories and families of products – i.e. dresses, shirts and jeans that the algorithms suggest are the categories that you are more likely to buy.

“These are not just related products, but families: for example we might have two bestselling jackets one is crazier, one more mainstream.”

To demonstrate, Castresana opens his jacket to reveal a bright multicolored lining, with the asymmetrical swirls typical of Desigual’s designs.

“We let you choose, because we don’t know what sort of craziness you have.”


This interview with Desigual CMO Borja Castresana took place at Modern Marketing Summit at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona 2017. For more MWC interviews and coverage see:


Andy Favell is ClickZ’s columnist on mobile. He is a London-based freelance mobile/digital consultant, journalist and web editor. Contact him via LinkedIn or Twitter at Andy_Favell.

Related reading