Uniqlo’s robust physical expansion to more than 1,700 stores in 17 countries means the Japanese-based retailer has had to figure out a crucial missing piece: digital growth.

First and foremost, Uniqlo, a subsidiary of Fast Retailing Co., is focused on better understanding its consumer base and the way it shops. For Hiroshi Taki, CEO of Uniqlo USA, this means amplifying mobile shopping capabilities and tailoring e-commerce efforts to make the shopping experience more personalized.

“The habits of the customer and the way they’re purchasing items is changing,” Taki said at a preview event in New York City for Uniqlo’s Fall/Winter 2016 collection. “Nowadays they’re buying more on the mobile app than the desktop. So we need to raise awareness within our company to keep up with that technology.”

Mobile commerce and beyond
The transition to e-commerce, both on mobile and desktop, has transformed the way consumers shop in store, Taki said. In addition to having the opportunity to research and browse products before visiting a brick-and-mortar location, they can make purchases online in the store if a product is out-of-stock.

“The way they purchase in the store has also been changing. If they cannot buy or find a product they’re looking for in the store, they can automatically go on mobile and buy on the spot in the store,” he said.

According to Justin Kerr, CMO and director of brand marketing for Uniqlo USA, the company has increasingly shifted its focus from its traditional large-scale, brick-and-mortar spaces, to online retail. The company just recently introduced e-receipts for in-store purchases, a tactic many of its peers, including H&M and Zara, already adapted previously.

Exploring a ‘digital flagship’ 
The benefit to refocusing to online retail, Kerr said, is that you can glean critical information from consumers in real-time, and utilize it to enhance products and shopping experiences.

“When you’re interacting with the customers digitally you can share so much information and meet their needs more interactively, whether it’s through customizing emails or understanding what they want and gathering feedback,” Kerr said.

He added that Uniqlo is working to take these comments and filter them directly to leaders at the company who handle the respective issues, from designers to sales team members.

“We have a process of gathering customer feedback and relaying it directly to our designers and merchants at headquarters to make improvements on the products, not each season, but even each week and each month as things are in progress,” he said.

Uniqlo is also in the process of creating a digital flagship store in Ariake, Japan, that will serve as a beta testing ground for integrating new technologies in the store, such as fast shipping services to tourists and visitors making purchases online at hotels on the quick.

Personalizing email marketing
Taki noted that of all the digital offerings, traditional email marketing remains the most vital for Uniqlo and the most effective way to connect with consumers. Aldo Ligouri, communications lead at Fast Retailing Co., said the company continues to introduce new products to consumers weekly via email, providing them with more in-depth information about products and development than they could receive in store.

“Through email, we can actually go into the details and say, here’s five benefits of this product that will make your life better,” Ligouri said.

Moving forward, Uniqlo hopes to better tailor email correspondence to the preferences and tendencies of each individual shopper.

“We continue to refine our approach so the more we learn about each customer we can target our community of products to them and make items more personalized,” he said.