Robert Kneschke - Fotolia
Danish brand Ecco has spent the last few years working on its omni-channel development as part of a digital adoption strategy.
The retailer’s omni-channel distribution started when it moved its US e-commerce platform from a custom-built site to the Demandware commerce platform.
“We stumbled on e-commerce. We had a very small business. It was run internally with a customer website which had no consideration on merchandise, planning assortment or content dynamics.” explains Dana Schwartz, director of marketing and e-commerce for Ecco.
Four years ago, the brand focused on wholesale rather than direct-to-consumer retailing. In a bid to build the brand, Ecco started using insights from its Demandware online sales data to deliver what customers wanted, when and how they wanted it.
Schwartz admits the brand is “young in e-commerce” but has been working on its team environment in stores to create a foundation for technology-assisted selling, and developed a six month “aggressive” roadmap for turning the business around.
“We’re really looking at online and offline – how do you take a powerful tool like Demandware? And how do you look at your brick and mortar stores? And how do you merge that online to offline experience?” Schwartz says.
In-store technology for selling
To tackle this online and in-store divide, Ecco has been deploying iPads to store associates to assist customers in finding products that may not be available in-store, through a Demandware “endless aisle” tool.
“Ecco is really on a journey right now, like most brands, for direct to consumer. We wish to have 50% of our business to be direct to consumer in the next three years, so that obviously takes a lot of change internally and externally,” Schwartz says.
“We didn’t just put the kiosk on the wall, we decided and we looked very much at the shopping experience and the engagement in our stores.”
Store associates for Ecco went from being a “stock room person” to a “brand ambassador”, assisting customers through buying.
Around 80% of transactions taking place on in-store tablets arose from a lack of stock in stores.
“We have very small square-footage stores – which also means we have very small stock rooms,” Schwartz says.
Ecco decided to use data gathered from tablet and online sales to predict in-store trends, ensuring the store would have the sizes needed without stocking unnecessary items.
“The power is not only what you’re offering to the consumer, it’s also the data that you get behind the scenes, and that takes an organisation to change.” Schwartz says.
Customisation for the consumer
In the future, Ecco plans to combine in-store and online data to offer a customised experience to consumers.
If a customer registers through the Ecco website, a profile of the customer will be built using Demandware customer relationship management (CRM), allowing in-store associates to know what sort of style, size and colour a particular consumer likes.
In spring 2016 the retailer plans to use in-store tablets to “tease” the customer into trying and buying different products, by offering different colours and styles of product.
The retailer also plans to introduce a “shared shopping kart” whereby if registered shoppers add something to their online basket they can come to a store to try the product on, and it will already be waiting for them.
“We can now use that as a point of differentiation to know the consumer better, and can offer merchandise that is more appropriate for them,” Schwartz says.
Making store sales count
The store associates can also present a challenge, as many are reluctant to use technology, feeling it takes the sales away from them.
But Schwartz wants store associates to see the tablets as “an extension of them” and to consider themselves as “armed with opportunity”.
“Initially it was a threat to them, because you have to figure out who gets credit for that sale,” Schwartz explains.
To tackle this feeling of threat among store staff, Schwartz is working on ensuring that credit for sales through tablet devices is attributed to the staff member who makes them.
“Wherever the sale is serviced, that’s where the credit is paid,” Schwartz explains.
“When a sale happens in a store, that sale associate gets commission for that. And that was really important for the adoption of that tool in the store.”
Ecco has been electing team members from each store, labelled “rockstars”, to share best practice when using the iPads to assist sales.
The combination of introducing the tablet to stores and the forthcoming endless aisle system will mean staff need training to use the technology.
The current workforce for Ecco is varied, and its average customer group is between 35 and 50 years old.
“It’s a mix for us but we’re thinking long and hard about who we hire in our stores and how much they engage in this journey, and also how we target that millennial consumer differently. We realise there’s a certain expectation, we need to live up to that,” Schwartz explains.
As a global retailer, part of Ecco’s challenge has been adapting its strategy to the different environments it operates in.
The brand has launched websites on the Demandware platform in the US and in its second market Canada, as well as in Australia.
The firm plans to expand into Japan, after completing a launch in Singapore.
Schwartz says the firm’s e-commerce operation is outsourced in Europe.
“Europe is a great example where we have a lot of joint ventures, we have some great partners, it’s a very fragmented market,” Schwartz says.
“We see the more markets that come on to Demandware the better for us. There’s more consistency for our brand.”