Category Archives: e-commerce

Why Social Media is a Critical Tool for All Retailers

In a time where there are countless retailers competing for consumers’ attention – it’s a no-brainer that you need to find ways to make your business stand out. That means you should be doing more to not only optimise your marketing strategy but also to engage with your prospects and existing customers.

thumbnail_ThinkstockPhotos-522303090

But how? Social media – that’s how. With the number of worldwide social media users expected to reach 2.95 billion by 2020, you have a huge audience at your fingertips. Furthermore, if you don’t evolve and increase your visibility with social content, then you risk losing out on a lot of business.

Using social media can help you to build awareness about your retail store and attract new customers. Platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, etc. also provide you with a wealth of information about consumers and which of your products are favoured by buyers.

The bottom line? Social media is a critical tool for converting prospects into repeat customers, offering you more than any other form of traditional marketing.

Photos and videos

Today’s customers live in a fast-paced world and they don’t always have time to read a lengthy article. Photos and videos are simple ways to captivate your target customers and grab their attention. It could be that you have a new product about to hit the market. Maybe you just gave your stores a redesign. Don’t just write about it. Share visuals. Consumers can’t get enough of them and they encourage interaction.

Social media for retailers is about personalising the seller to consumer experience and influencing customers’ behaviours. As long as your photos and videos are relevant to your business, they’ll help you to build trust between you and the people you want to reach much quicker, as well as humanise your retail brand.

Real-time engagement

Social media platforms let your customer service representatives respond to your followers’ comments and feedback in real time. This is gold for retailers, as it helps you nurture and maintain your relationships with your customers. You’d be surprised how many people turn to retailers’ social media pages to ask questions, comment on products or post any concerns rather than visiting the store or contacting customer care teams.

You’re lucky to have the opportunity to stay engaged with your customers online, so don’t ever waste it. And let’s not forget about Facebook Live. It allows your team or brand advocates to have a live conversation with your audience. That’s brilliant news, especially as people prefer to connect with you in real time for a more intimate experience and to get direct replies to their questions and comments immediately.

User-generated content

Believe it or not, you can actually get your customers to generate content for your retail brand. As long as you give them a worthwhile incentive, they’ll jump on board in no time. You could ask your social media followers to share or tweet a photo of a product they bought in your store to win a prize. Whether you only award the best entry or offer multiple prizes to make people feel they have more chances to win something, just be sure to pick a prize that’s relevant to your business.

When you ask your audience to contribute to your content creation, it’s basically free advertising. Plus, people are more interested in hearing about the things their peers like than your sales messages. But that’s not all. You will have created a way to continually engage with your customers, build and maintain relationships that truly connect and widen your reach.

Time to get social

In light of everything I’ve said, there has never been a better time to start embracing the use of social media to boost awareness about your retail business. Shoppers appreciate retailers who care about engaging with their online community, meaning they’ll be more inclined to buy your products.

Fusion-Factory_VF_110px

Fusion Factory Case Study – MotoParts

 

www.fusionfactory.com

MotoParts.net.au

MotoParts Solves the Complexities of Listing on eBay with CommerceConnect

Driving a Whole New Section of Growth for the Business

ABOUT MOTOPARTS

MotoParts is one of the leading distributors of automotive parts and car accessories in Australia—with a long history in the B2B commerce space supplying wholesale auto parts throughout NSW and Australia. MotoParts decided to launch into a completely new sales channel to leverage their existing business model—driving a whole new section of growth for the business. “As one of the largest online marketplaces, eBay was the obvious choice for MotoParts to start our online presence,” said Shillinglaw.

Business Drivers

“We required a solution to manage product data feeds, with the added functionality of enriching and enhancing product data ready for listing on eBay. We needed to integrate with our ERP system, specifically product, pricing and inventory data along with both eBay and MotoParts’s new consumer eCommerce website. This also included receiving orders from eBay and our eCommerce website and sending shipment updates,” said Shillinglaw.

For sellers of automotive parts, the complexity and volume of parts data is an added challenge. The massive increase of vehicle models and variants over the past few decades is further complicating the automotive parts industry.

“At MotoParts we needed the data to be in a coherent format to allow us to list products on eBay that easily identifies a part, the vehicle it fits and in a format that people feel enticed to purchase,” continued Shillinglaw. “Buyers that would be shopping in the automotive aftermarket can be enthusiasts or do-it-yourself people and if the product data isn’t presented in a compelling way—you’re not going to make the sales.”

Fusion Factory Speeds Time to Market for MotoParts

“With their experience, the team at Fusion Factory were able to integrate and automate MotoParts’s solution in the fastest and easiest way possible with minimal hassles,” said Shillinglaw.

“We were referred to Fusion Factory by PARts who provide us with automotive parts content,” explained Shillinglaw. “Fusion Factory was one of the few, if not the only company having the essential experience with large-scale integrations in the automotive parts industry. I didn’t want to waste valuable time working with an organisation where I would need to explain the basics. Fusion Factory and the team have a solid reputation and the price was right—this made the decision easy for us. We would not have been able to get where we are today and where we are heading in the future without the work delivered by Fusion Factory.”

“The team has been fantastic in their flexibility and receptiveness to any of our business needs—nothing is ever a problem,” added Shillinglaw.

Parts to the Solution

With Fusion Factory and the CommerceConnect application, MotoParts are managing their product data in a centralised solution. The product data is received from PARts and collated with inventory and price data from MotoParts’s ERP system the data is frequently synchronised in an intelligent way in order to list products on eBay.

“Orders that are placed on eBay are extracted and standardised into one format—ready to be processed by our ERP system,” said Shillinglaw.

“It was vital for our eBay sales success to have a solution that could handle two-way integration with our backend systems—paving the way for seamlessly adding more online sales channels, said Shillinglaw. “The CommerceConnect solution and the team at Fusion Factory manage all the intricacies of these integrated processes extremely well.”

“CommerceConnect sits in the middle between our online sales channels and our backend systems and collates the orders from all channels,” said Shillinglaw. “Orders are pushed through to our inventory management system which pushes data through to our warehouse management system then the products are ‘picked and packed’ with the online shipment process fully automated. Inventory feeds are currently pushed through daily, enabling us to always have the correct maximum level of stock online at any one time.”

Business Value Delivered

Building a New Online Sales Business from the Ground-up

  • MotoParts was up and running and selling on eBay within just a few months—a fast time to market.
  • CommerceConnect is a robust commerce solution that doesn’t hit a wall at hundreds of thousands of listings—a solution that will keep up with Parts’s fast growing online business.
  • Fusion Factory’s knowledge and experience in the automotive parts space saved MotoParts significant resource time and IT spend.
  • Listing on eBay with CommerceConnect established a solid foundation, allowing MotoParts to add many additional online sales channels, as they desire— with minimal work.

Achieving a Rapid ROI

Listing on eBay increased total MotoParts revenue by up to 5% within a few months. “We are happy with the results—It’s a great start to moving into new channels,” said Shillinglaw.

The Road Ahead

“Now that we have built a solid foundation with Fusion Factory, we have a fantastic opportunity to go after as many online channels as possible to rapidly increase our sales,” said Shillinglaw.

“We are working with Fusion Factory closely in planning our future online sales strategies and destinations. We are looking to expand into many different online sales channels including our own consumer eCommerce website,” added Shillinglaw.

“Fusion Factory has extensive knowledge and experience building eCommerce solutions for clients in the automotive parts industry. They understand the business processes and data requirements associated with the constant changes in the complex world of automotive parts. A significant deciding factor in choosing Fusion Factory is they can deliver a solution that will scale as our business grows—the sky is the limit. We are looking at hundreds of thousands of SKUs and this is possible with CommerceConnect. We have comfort in knowing that Fusion Factory can support MotoParts business.”

Scott Shillinglaw

Online Director for MotoParts

 

ABOUT FUSION FACTORY

Fusion Factory delivers dynamic data integration solutions ensuring your people, partners and systems all work together – sharing data to achieve business success. Fusion Factory is a proven performer with over 150 clients across Australia. Our client portfolio includes organisations of all sizes – from SMEs through to blue-chip enterprises spanning many industries. To learn more visit www.fusionfactory.com, email info@fusionfactory.com or call +61 2 8026 6800.

Fusion Factory Media Relations Contact:

Jennifer Svanstrom

Jennifer.svanstrom@fusionfactory.com

Phone: +61 2 8026 6814

Mobile: +61 414 699 604

 

Fusion-Factory_VF_110px

Integration Case Study – Trebuchet

Trebuchet Innovative Logistic Network Model Delivers Global Wine Company Competitive Advantage with Fusion Factory’s EDI Implementation


The EDI Business Challenge

To launch in Australia, Trebuchet Nordics supported the local team by providing their IP, infrastructure and systems. “In relation to the existing integration, Trebuchet Nordics utilise Microsoft BizTalk, which was one of the options we considered locally for our requirements,” said Anthony Mancini, Technical Business Solution Delivery Manager for Trebuchet. “The way the integration was built in the Nordics with BizTalk— the rules were specific to their market, much of it was done within the integration layer with a large amount of custom-code. On evaluation—to implement the Nordics integration approach would prove too costly to re-engineer and did not provide a standard that our clients could adopt, as well as meet our time to market deadline,” explained Mancini.

For Trebuchet Australia, the answer was to start fresh. “We made the strategic business decision to design an EDI solution more suited for the local market,” said Mancini. We had a very complex integration requirement with many endpoints and process areas. We lacked in-house integration expertise at a technical level and our immediate priority was to source an integration vendor that understood our complex integration needs. The solution had to be cost effective, easy to use and fast to implement. It was a requirement to be able to communicate using standard methods, for example XML and CSV, along with the different connectivity methods such as FTP and AS2. We also wanted to avoid massive infrastructure investments and support requirements that we would then need to manage,” adds Mancini.

Locally, Trebuchet was introduced to the Fusion Factory team through Avanade. “Avanade recommended Fusion Factory to demonstrate their integration expertise and the Flow Integration software—and that’s where our partnership was made,” says Mancini. “We had been working with Avanade for some time as our global MS Dynamics AX partner and we trusted their recommendation and knowledge,” Mancini explains. “Other compelling decision factors for Trebuchet were Fusion Factory’s costs and their ability to demonstrate taking clients to market—fast. Fusion Factory with Flow ticked all the boxes for what we were after. Time was of the essence and we had no time to waste,” added Mancini.

Seamless EDI Solution

“Much of the challenge for Trebuchet was actually around the significant number of message files that needed to be processed and the complexity of the business processes—more than the technical solution itself. There is a lot of logic to deal with particular situations coming in and out of Trebuchet,” said Craig Bennett, CTO for Fusion Factory.

 Trebuchet defined the business processes and Fusion Factory implemented the corresponding message flows that allowed files to seamlessly pass between their clients, and numerous trading partners.

Trebuchet’s ERP system is MS Dynamics AX and is the key interaction point for integration. Fusion Factory configured the logic to translate various XML and flat file formats to the OAGIS format (Open Applications Group Integration Specification), the standard format that Trebuchet has agreed to use and is working with all its trading partners. “The Fusion Factory solution created a seamless integration between Trebuchet’s MS Dynamics AX instance and other parties’ systems, such as 3PL WMS systems, client ERP and partner software including a TMS (Transport Management System from Descartes) and BSM (BuySellMove – a global export & import control tower solution),” added Bennett.

 “The solution, configuration and functionality met all our expectations,” said Mancini. “Our expectation was obviously to have a functioning solution, but also one that met all business requirements in message latency (time it takes for a message to be sent from one party to another), 24×7 stability, audit functionality, search functionality and especially the ability to trace logical groupings of messages—all the functionality within the Flow Integration software.”

Business Benefits for Trebuchet

“Fusion Factory’s superior integration expertise became increasingly evident in the implementation, especially where fast changes were vital to facilitate business processes that weren’t in our initial scope. The Fusion Factory team was always available and ensured any required changes were made in a timely and robust manner,” said Mancini.

One of the most significant benefits to Trebuchet is the ability to track, trace and audit the messages in the business process. “At the integration level we can view the data flows in real-time which allows corrections if required in a very short turnaround time,” Mancini explained.

“An unexpected benefit discovered through the implementation was the monitoring component within Flow, which we use to run checks and balances within our systems to make sure they’re continually up and running without any issues. Previously, we waited for an error to alert us—and then action. Now we actively use the monitoring tool, which highlights to us immediately if there is an issue,” explained Mancini. “An additional benefit with Flow is that we can perform searches, view code and make minor updates without having to engage a Fusion Factory developer, which is a huge benefit to us and saves considerable time and valuable IT spend in development,” said Mancini.

The Total Trebuchet Logistics Network Service Provider Model Delivers a Competitive Advantage

The Trebuchet client benefits are simple yet effective. The message standards that clients use don’t have to be changed when 3PLs switch over. “Our seamless network model allows our clients to take less ownership of significant aspects of their business. Companies do not need to be concerned about changes to any of the systems that Trebuchet connects,” explained Mancini.

Results Achieved Working with Fusion Factory

  • Reduction of Trebuchet in-house resource time and costs by 30% associated with gathering of integration requirements.

 

  • Reduction in manual labour for Trebuchet clients by 30% due to the combination of Fusion Factory and the Trebuchet Solution.

 

  • Reduction across in-house development of configuration rules within MS Dynamics AX and partner systems by 80%. Flow handles the logic when integrating data from one system to another.

 

  • Configuration changes to the integration process are built twice as fast within the Flow Integration software using Fusion Factory expertise compared with a competitor custom-built integration solution.

 

  • Improved automated workflow for Trebuchet business processes working with Flow Integration software by up to 20%, reducing the amount of manual work required to manage the same processes.

 

Mancini also adds, “Whenever we have a scenario where we look at the challenge and how to solve it—our first action is to contact Fusion Factory to make the change—which can generally be completed within a couple of hours. Alternatively, if we had to go back through our clients, partners or vendors to make a change it would be up to a three-day build.”

Ready for the Future

“Any new client, application or trading partner that comes on board, we will deploy the Flow Integration software working with the team at Fusion Factory—it’s our only way to go. Our plan to expand with Fusion Factory will allow us to be less reliant on our clients and partners to provide us with information for testing. As a practical example, right now where we need to test a message going to our warehouse and transport partners we need our clients to key in a dummy order for us. There is functionality within Flow that can produce a message to mimic what our clients would need to send us. This significantly reduces the lead time and a lot of costs for us, as we need to request and a charged for their time,” concludes Mancini.

Click and Collect The Pros and Cons

Written by Mark Freidin at Internet Retailing

As Australia’s larger retailers develop better system integrations and understand eCommerce better, they have started to come to the fore once again as dominant players in retail, offering their goods both in the virtual and real world. This is where Click and Collect has come into its own, 2014’s buzz word in the retail industry or is it? To those in the eCommerce space Click and Collect is the term synonymous with buying online and collecting in store, or so you would think!

Click and Collect is a relatively simple concept in theory, i.e. order online and instead of selecting a freight option, the buyer selects an option to collect their purchase from a retail store, or in the case of a pureplay online retailer, collection from a distribution centre or collection point. Click and Collect has been popular in the UK since 2010 when the Guardian newspaper announced that Tesco would be offering a drive through type of service for internet buyers.
(Link: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1305168/Tesco-open-UKs-drive-store.html)

In 2014 an article in Power Retail suggested that Click and Collect was starting to gain traction in Australia after a slow uptake by Australian retailers. Traditional thinking, infighting between departments struggling to gain share of voice, as well as budgetary and technical constraints are probable reasons for the slow uptake of Click and Collect. A recent case study at a Melbourne based pioneer in discounted online retailing, highlighted a few interesting points relating to their implementation of Click and Collect. The business knew that sales from the 15th – 24 December dropped dismally as consumers turned to retail stores for last minute shopping. The idea behind this was that the business could experience an extra 10 days of peak volume sales that it had previously missed out on. The theory was correct because sales were tenfold on previous years in that busy period. This achievement was not without its headaches.
In mid 2014 the company providing a true SAAS (Software as a Service) ERP system was approached to discuss the modifications needed to pass data from the retailer’s website after sale into their ERP system to enable pick and pack of the order. The ERP provider was bewildered what Click and Collect was, so too was the website development project manager, yes this happened in 2014. After defining what Click and Collect is, a brief was put forward to the developer and the ERP provider to provide a workable solution that would allow a Click and Collect option to appear at checkout, and for the warehouse to be able to tell the difference between Australia Post/Bulk carriers and Click and Collect. Sounds easy yet this took quite a few weeks between the vendors to get this right, testing and to-ing and fro-ing between eSOLD and the technology providers before it worked. Once ready, the service was widely promoted to customers, so what happened? Customers from around the country were choosing Click and Collect as it was free and they didn’t necessarily understand what Click and Collect meant. This was a customer service headache as freight had to be chased up and in many instances orders already picked and packed by the warehouse were cancelled. The part solution to this was to get the developer to block Click and Collect as an option to all buyers without a Victorian Postcode. This reduced this problem massively but not entirely. Another challenge was for products that weren’t kept in stock. Customers were arriving at the collection point to be told that their order was not available, not good news for irate customers. Further development work was rapidly done on the site to remove Click and Collect as an option for these products. Sales continued to grow with Click and Collect however another issue became apparent. The area required to store these orders started to become disproportionate. Customer service had to start putting extra resources into constantly contacting customers to collect their orders, finally customers collecting their orders, wanted to add to their orders, change of mind or to make matters worse engage in idle chatter and conversation with the office staff or to see products before they bought them, all situations that add unnecessary and unplanned overheads to the business.

In summary, Click and Collect is meant to be a great customer service alternative to consumers. It encourages sales to customers that need or want things today, to frugal buyers who may not have shopped originally due to unwillingness to paying for shipping, and it provides the opportunity for shoppers to see that a business actually does have a face, a human component which builds relationships and trust. These factors all do add value to the business, however this comes at a cost that is not initially apparent. Systems both electronic and human have to be developed and extra manpower is required to manage this extra channel.

SOCIAL MEDIA #SMARTS:

Posted by Jessica Box from IE Agency

Why creating an engaged community is crucial to increasing revenue and brand awareness.

Does your brand have its advocates dispersed strategically across the social stratosphere? Are you creating content in a meaningful way? Are you actually seeing the efforts being translated into a dollar value?

Social Media is now intrinsic to the foundations of our digitally engaged society. As each generation grows up with a new channel, there’s fluctuation in the popularity of platforms. However, fundamentally social media is here to stay. Most importantly we need to ask the question: how can retailers translate these communities into useful tools for business growth?

Start-Up #Smarts

It’s important to look at the success stories of start-up businesses that have utilised individual platforms in a sophisticated manner. By inherently having the ability to be nimble and agile, they can evolve and expand rapidly through making a few smart decisions.

Take Sabo Skirt for example, a fashion start-up business based in Queensland with a pure play e-commerce store. By tapping into the already targeted marketplace of Instagram, they have grown their reach to a global scale. With a hefty 1.1 million followers currently, they leverage a unique blend of product, editorial and behind-the-scenes content which genuinely engages their audience.

There’s a component to their social strategy which has been very successful; the involvement of the two co-founders as advocates. Each has an active community of their own, with around 100k followers a piece. They post regular content on the Sabo Skirt Instagram to give their customers a peek into their daily life.

This central community on Instagram has enabled Sabo Skirt to expand exponentially and increase their revenue. They have now had a collection in David Jones, a new e-commerce store launch within the last 6 months and some beautiful campaign lookbooks to engage with their customers (most recently being Bali).

Big-Business #Smarts

By comparison, there are many big corporates who have taken to social media incredibly well, by primarily using witty copy, strategic hashtags or statement imagery to differentiate themselves from their competitors when news stories break.

A great example of a viral social media story is the bending of Apple’s newest product: the iPhone 6 Plus. Leveraging the hashtag “#BendGate,” Samsung created a controversial, yet still hilarious, image with the single tagline “Bend to those who are worthy.” It featured an upright, unbent Samsung phone and a bent iPhone folded over in-front of the Samsung. (see below)

Others who have jumped on the bandwagon include Heineken, Kit Kat and LG on Twitter.

By aligning their brands with an on trend, topical discussion, interested consumers will establish a trust and reassurance that may not have been possible without capitalising on the social opportunity.

Strategic #Smarts

Seeing as there’s a hashtag in the title of this article, it seems important to discuss this unique and useful tool being implemented across most social media platforms. As mentioned above, the hashtag “#BendGate” created an easy way for brands to communicate with their consumers.

With that thought in mind, many successful uses of the hashtag strategy have been at events. For example, as the Super Bowl was on in February of 2014, the hashtag #SuperBowlXLIX was trending across Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. Brands and their customers communicated in an easy-to-access medium about the scores, Super Bowl ads and their experience at the game.

Tapping into an already existing audience is the easiest way for brands to engage on social media, so utilising the perfect hashtag is crucial for brands to remain relevant in the digital landscape.

#Smarts Checklist

If you’re doing the following, you’re definitely on the right track to winning at social media smarts:

  • Responding directly to customers who engage you on social media
  • Posting engaging content, which is not always product related but also brand building.
  • Having a sense of timeliness in “trending” and “viral” social opportunities
  • A strong brand tone-of-voice which is consistent across all channels
  • A good use of hashtags which suit your brand

What does Omni Channel mean for operations?

True Omni Channel means that the customer has the same experience regardless of where they purchase. It also means that the customer can buy anywhere and have it shipped or picked up anywhere – click and collect, buy in store and send, buy in one store and pick up in another. Speed matters. There has to be complete transparency within the systems with the ability to see live data. Prices have to be identical to be truly Omni Channel.

Often times, this is easier said than done. Most often, POS/ERP systems are on different platforms than e-commerce. Do both systems calculate promotions identically? You would be surprised at the complications involved in creating identical promotion capability.

The returns process needs to be thought through and streamlined. Again, if you want to be truly Omni Channel you need to allow the customer to return a product any way they want. But you need to decide the process for this. Do they need a receipt or can they access a customer file in each location (which is suggested)? Does the return negate any promo used on a purchase? There is no right or wrong answer to this – just be consistent.

There has to be a live feed from all warehouses and stores with accurate inventory to achieve true Omni Channel. In addition, you need to be able to reserve stock in the system AND create the process internally to physically reserve the stock. Most retail staff on the floor of a store will sell a product even if the system says that there are none available.

In addition to the system requirements, you need to be prepared from a physical point of view. The stores need to have space and resources to pick and pack. An area to collect the product, wrap it and label it for shipment. There should also be access to the shipping system in order to track shipments.

Gift cards and loyalty cards need to be integrated with all systems so that they are live and searchable immediately. Theoretically, a customer should be able to buy a gift card, walk out of the store and use it to purchase something on the website within minutes.

Other things to consider in your Omni Channel pursuit:

  • Engaging in CRM – social listening – understanding what your customers are saying about you
  • Warehouse stock – do you separate the e-commerce stock or pick it from general stock – what are the pros and cons
  • Do you package or wrap a purchase in store the same way you wrap it when shipping?
  • What happens on international purchases? Do you have separate websites in countries? Do you have a warehouse outside of your country to service these sales?
  • Should you have a warehouse outside Australia to avoid GST? What are the pros and cons?
  • Where do you hold Master Data?

There is a lot to consider if you want to be truly Omni Channel. There are ways to stage the project with Omni Channel as the end goal. It is a big project that needs the appropriate experts to guide you. Make sure that you either have them on you staff or hire good consultants.

How much should you expect to spend on a website?

Written by Mike Holtzer

Websites come in many shapes and sizes. What you invest in a proper website depends on many factors – size of business, potential of website sales, type of product, customer base, bricks and mortar saturation, international exposure, supply chain effectiveness, etc. As a rule of thumb, in Australia, you should be thinking that your website sales should generate AT LEAST 10% of your total sales and should be your largest store, by far.

With this in mind, you should be WILLING to invest the same in your website as you would in a bricks and mortar store that would generate that amount of sales. Again, this differs from company to company and from product to product. High end brands will probably spend more on a store than low end brands, large format stores spend less per sqm meter that small format stores, etc.

So, if you normally invest, let’s say, $200k for a fit out in a store where you thought you would sell $1M, or $300k for a $1.5M store then you should be expecting to pay 20% of the sales you are expecting for online. Keep in mind that the margins should be relatively the same as a bricks and mortar (depending on how you sell off obsolete stock, which is a completely different conversation). In addition, the running cost of web sales is lower than stores. Having said all this I believe in multi channel, or omni channel or whatever new jargon that the consultants have come up. The point is that the customer should come first and their experience should be enjoyable and easy. Ultimately you want to increase sales.

I am not advocating spending more than you should. I am always a fan of getting the best deals, but you have to start with the right expectation. There are different platforms (Demandware, Magento, Hybris, etc.) as well as different developers for each platform. It is also important to understand the costs and difficulties in integration to your existing systems. It is important to look at all aspects.

So you get the idea – if you are planning on doing $10M on a website, spend the proper amount to get there as you would a store where you were going to sell $10M.

THE SURVIVAL OF THE CATALOGUE IN THE DIGITAL AGE

Submitted by IE Agency

THE SURVIVAL OF THE CATALOGUE IN THE DIGITAL AGE

How retailers can use digital-first design to reimagine the catalogue experience.

For the age-old catalogue, the increase in digital technology use has become a double-edged sword. In some ways, it poses a challenge: as consumers spend increasing amounts of time glued to various devices, many retailers have had to play catch up, adapting the catalogue to new environments and new devices. On the other hand, it’s an opportunity. Technology offers the potential to enhance and deepen the experience of the print catalogue. I will explore these trends and how they point to a need to rethink the idea of a catalogue from a new, digitally-centric approach.

Challenges of Adapting

Translating the catalogue to digital form presents great opportunities for retailers. Adapting its print-format for online reduces production and distribution costs. It enables retailers to deep-link products to facilitate seamless transactions for the consumer. We can track catalogue interaction in real-time, providing valuable insights when making decisions such as strategies around paid media spend.

But in reality, directly importing catalogue pages to digital platforms has thrust the catalogue into a sort of awkward teenage phase. Everything around it is constantly changing, but the catalogue has not. How can it keep up with the increasing number of screen sizes it must squeeze itself into?

The digital industry has largely responded to device challenges with a shift towards “responsive web design”, a fluid grid layout which adjusts to fit individual screen sizes. Others turn to adaptive technology which first detects a device and delivers a customised experience for that device.

There are some third parties that offer plug-and-play solutions that enable catalogues to confront these issues. US retailer, Nordstrom hosts a shoppable version of their print catalogue, on site, using the Syndeca platform. On desktop, the catalogue is relatively seamless, but on mobile, the limitations of adapting print directly to the small screen are immediately evident. The catalogue doesn’t spread the full width of the screen, products are tiny and text is difficult to read. Our own Australian brands like Chemist Warehouse and Officeworks leverage similar technology such as Lasoo with similar useable yet, imperfect results.

The rise of mobile and tablet use has also spawned the growth of third party apps that aggregate catalogues from various brands into one convenient location. Catalog Spree is an app designed with an iPad-first approach, which links directly to products online. But these apps still present the same problems of directly adapting from print – while the app allows users to shop multiple catalogues in the one location, the experience is still bound by the traditional pages.

Bigger brands like Net-A-Porter and Nordstrom are building their own custom platforms to catalogue content. The best Nordstrom catalogue experience is undoubtedly through its own shoppable app for iPad, which displays the catalogue and related products all within the app for purchase through an in-app browser. Unfortunately, the majority of brands don’t have these financial luxuries.

Opportunities for Enhancement

All said, the catalogue is by no means done for. It’s still a valuable pillar of marketing, affording a sense of luxury and touch that we don’t get through a screen. Customers feel valued to receive a catalogue; when they sit down to read it, it is with a single focus-point rather than a multi-tasking, attention-deficit digital mind.

But a phone is always within arm’s reach, available to conduct research whilst browsing. A few retailers are taking advantage of those behaviours by using mobile to both deepen the catalogue experience, as well as provide a seamless transition point. IKEA’s catalogue app allows consumers to scan selected pages of the print catalogue to view additional content including films and 360 degree showrooms. Its biggest value-add is the augmented reality feature, which transforms catalogue items into virtual products the user can place in their own home. IKEA is imagining the catalogue from the user’s perspective, enhancing the experience by leveraging the native functionality of the device – recognising that it is likely sitting nearby.

Sportsgirl recently partnered with IE to build an app that uses AR technology to bring the pages of its magazine, The Daily Us, to life. Through the app, the catalogue is brought to life by way of animated product images and video content, all of which links directly to category pages through an in-app browser for purchase. The app also takes advantage of real-time data, enabling Sportsgirl to see which products are getting the most interaction.

A Digital-first Approach

At the end of the day, adapting the catalogue is still trying to retrofit a traditional, yet successful form of marketing into a digital channel that doesn’t quite work. With rising executions of responsive design, authentic digital design (often labeled “flat” design) and use of social media, why must a catalogue retain any of its traditional page-style form when translated online?

A few brands are exploring new forms in cost-effective ways through the use of social platforms. US retailer, J Crew has begun launching its catalogue images through social platforms like Pinterest. Oscar de la Renta premiered its fall campaign on InstagramBanana Republic has partnered with the popular iPad app Flipboard to curate its own catalogue of products, which users can then add to their own magazines.

If the role of the catalogue is to provide context and story around product, how can we reimagine and redesign the catalogue as a digitally authentic experience? I hope to see retailers taking cues from immersive digital experiences like the NY Times’ Snowfall, to create scrollable, responsively-designed stories that engage consumers with the brand whilst enabling seamless transactions.

As great user experience becomes an expectation rather than a bonus, the catalogue presents an exciting opportunity for marketers. By rethinking catalogue content and transforming it from its traditional form into flexible, shareable digital content, we can create even more opportunities to tell a cohesive brand story, across multiple platforms and devices. In making these stories more accessible and seamlessly linked to products, we might drive more brand engagement, loyalty and – most importantly – transactions.