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NRF 2016: Ecco's journey to omnichannel eCommerce

Danish shoe manufacturer Ecco recently upgraded its eCommerce platform in order to increase its direct to consumer business.

The retailer chose Demandware three and a half years ago to upgrade from its custom-built site which was not sophisticated enough to deal with online merchandising. 

Dana Schwartz, head of eCommerce and marketing at Ecco US, said the 52-year-old brand is relatively young when it comes to online retailing. 

"We stumbled across eCommerce," she said at a press briefing during NRF 2016 in New York City last week. 

Schwartz joined Ecco almost five years ago when the brand had very little direct to consumer business, now it plans for consumer sales to be 50% over the next few years, and she knows eCommerce has a major part to play in this transformation.

But when choosing a new eCommerce platform, Schwartz did not want to over-complicate things. "We want to focus on the end game of the customers – we don't want to be technologists," she said. 

Schwartz implemented Demandware’s endless aisle solution, which allows the retailer to offer in-store customers products from its website. When it was first tested in US Ecco stores, the solution reported over 50% growth in the first year. The platform was then launched in Canada and Australia, with plans to roll out in Singapore, Japan and Korea in the next 12 months.

Schwartz explained Demandware gave the retailer a robust platform with the option of merchandising online and mixing up its assortment.

Ecco has 26 stores in the US which introduced the in-store technology platform at the end of last year. Most of these stores have a relatively small square footage as well as small stockrooms. 

"This was a challenge and an opportunity," she explained. "Using a tablet, we thought how can we service our customers better and the tablet in store is the extension of that."

Demandware's eCommerce solution allows in-store staff to engage with customers on the shop floor and show its entire shoe catalogue online. While its stores are small, customers can order products they do not have in stock while they are in the store, preventing a lost sale. Endless aisle purchases are then shipped free to a customer’s home, or to the store, while click & collect from online sales will be launched by the end of 2016.

Schwartz said the retailer did experience some animosity at first from sales staff during the roll out. "It was initially seen as a threat – who gets the credit for the sale?"

But Ecco's management agreed early on that wherever the sale was completed, that store would receive the credit. "That was important in the adoption of the tool in store."

And over the next 18 months, Schwartz predicts that total sales through the in-store tablets will be equivalent to an additional physical store. “We don’t see this as cannibalising the sale, we are saving the sale and also offering the consumer a wider assortment than is in the store – different colours, styles and missing sizes. We are moving toward the vision that puts the consumer at the centre –we care more about the consumer experience vs. where the actual transaction takes place.”

The Demandware platform also provides Ecco with much-needed data about its stock levels and customers. "We've learnt that 80% of transactions on a tablet are for products we didn't have in stock," she said. "But the data we get allows us to know what is missing and forecast and be leaner and better. We also expect to gain deeper consumer insights based on local geographical demand and product assortment to better meet the consumer for in-store purchases.”

Ecco intends to integrate its online loyalty programme in stores later this year, while understanding data to eventually provide same-day shipping in urban markets is key to the retailer’s future technology plans.

But Schwartz said it is difficult to have a fast-to-market approach when technological advancements in the market and consumer’s lives change so rapidly.

“When brands have alternate consumer segments – you need to find the balance of aligning the experience and expectations with those different consumer types – take millennials as an example, they expect and behave differently than our current core consumer.”

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