MFI's Web site relaunch furnishes online boost

MFI has increased week-on-week online revenues by 200% since it relaunched its Web site six months ago, the furniture retailer...

MFI has increased week-on-week online revenues by 200% since it relaunched its Web site six months ago, the furniture retailer revealed last week.

More than 100,000 customers now shop online at each week, some spending as much as £6,000 at a time, said Peter McKenna, head of business-to-consumer e-commerce at MFI.

The revamped site, which is based on Microsoft Commerce Server technology and hosted by managed services provider Attenda, forms part of MFI's strategy to target multi-channel shoppers, McKenna said.

"Multi-channel shoppers are seen as the most desirable customers to have," he said. "Research indicates that they can spend up to five times more than those people who shop through single channels, and more and more people are buying this way. For MFI to reach out to these customers we needed to have an integrated strategy behind us."

The Web site is more than just a sales channel, McKenna said. "We very much see the site as an integral part of the customer's pre-purchase consideration and research process, whether they buy online or from our stores.

"We have just completed our annual customer survey and we expect the results to show that at least 10% of store customers were influenced by the Internet."

It is vital that companies look beyond sales when considering their online strategy, said Gill Mander, an analyst at GartnerG2.

"Online strategy should go way beyond just driving people to buy online," she said. "The true opportunity comes from using real time interactivity with consumers to drive customers to the most convenient sales channel for them, on- or offline, and to drive loyalty, branding and customer satisfaction."

Originally, the MFI site was an "island" site, separate from systems or strategies used by the company's stores. At a basic level it was profitable but it lacked the infrastructure to evolve and was proving difficult to maintain as the business grew, McKenna said.

"We wanted to redevelop the site in line with our new brand and retail strategies," McKenna said. "To do this, visual co-ordination of the site with the new Conran designed stores was important, and we also needed to expand our offering dramatically from 900 products to 10,000."

Web sites should be as closely aligned to the store as possible, according to Mander. "Linking the online channels with offline channels is the ultimate key to success and buyers will desert those companies that do not get this right," she warned.

Read more on E-commerce technology