Big interview: Majestic Wine eCommerce boss Richard Weaver

This summer saw the launch of a new Majestic Wine website, with the retailer now operating on a completely new platform and utilising a number of innovative tools that it believes has improved its customers’ shopping experience.

Working alongside a variety of solutions providers, Majestic built its new site using geo-mapping technology, which can regionalise product offering, and responsive design specification that ensures the portal is tailored for mobile, tablet and desktop usage. The company has also updated its click & collect service to help align its various retail channels.

Having been leading the drinks retailer’s digital team for the last 13 years, the task of overseeing the website overhaul fell to eCommerce director Richard Weaver, who told Essential Retail that the rapid advancement in technology over the last decade has flipped the processes involved in this type of development on their head.

“In 2000 when we wanted to create systems, for example delivery via local stores, we had to come up with solutions ourselves – they were manual and not particularly adaptable systems,” he explained.

“Now, the scale of services available to everyone – apart from the very large companies in the industry – is more than you will ever need.

“My role has gone from finding solutions that don’t currently exist to figuring out what’s the most important thing to implement from someone who is already providing that service. I wouldn’t say it’s better or worse – it’s just different!”

The new Majestic Wine website was developed by eCommerce consultancy and systems integrator Javelin Group, it runs on the Intershop 7 platform and it utilises SDL Fredhopper for search and navigation. Other vendors Majestic is working with include Postcode Anywhere, which provides the customer-facing store finder and the CapturePlus tool that allows shoppers to find store addresses, and Beacon Dodsworth, which the company uses internally to map relevant stores to serve each online customer.

Using HTML 5, the site is optimised across mobiles, tablets and desktops, and operates on one central system that ensures managing online content is simplified.

“My view on this is that customers expect a seamless experience online whether they are using a desktop, tablet or mobile device,” said Weaver.

“Not having a device optimised for smaller screen is in my mind a mistake. If I’m ever accessing a site on my phone that isn’t optimised and I have to zoom in, I find it unnecessarily awkward.”

The mobile site’s navigation structure focused on providing a facility to allow customers to locate stores, browse for product information and to find out about non-product details such as delivery options. There is a full checkout on mobile, too, but Majestic has developed the site with the knowledge that customers tend to use these devices for research rather than purchasing.

With regard to the other technological issues Majestic had to consider during the eCommerce revamp, the company felt it was important to strengthen its click & collect offering. For a while now, the business has allowed customers to order goods online and pick them up in-store, but through a newly formed partnership with PayPal customers can now purchase products digitally, which was not the case previously.

There is a currently a consumer thirst for flexible fulfilment in the UK, and the ability to collect in-store appears to be welcomed by Majestic’s customers.

“We just ran an offer that saw 45% of orders made for collection rather than delivery which is the highest that we have ever seen of any response rate,” Weaver noted.

“The UK leads the world in the way that we retail – I’m not sure that we have the best delivery network in the world. Click & collect is one way around that and it also suits people’s modern lifestyles.”

The site uses advanced geographic mapping techniques which enable the retailer to balance supply and demand, and ensure compliance with licensing laws. During the online purchase journey, the customer can select the closest or preferred store and be presented with a locally available range thanks to an in-built real-time stock management tool.

As Majestic has always routed online orders to a customer’s nearest store, where arrangements are then made for delivery, the company believes it makes sense to tailor its range to the customer on a local level.

Weaver said: “We don’t make any assumptions when a customer heads to the website – they initially see a default range online but have the option to put in their postcode, which will enable us to work out the store product range for the customer.

“It’s a staggered approach and is there on every page but as the customer gets deeper into the site the inducement to take advantage of the functionality gets stronger.”

The work to develop a new website took 15 months end to end, with an initial six-month process put in place to set objectives and choose a core platform provider, and then a nine-month period for specifying and building the portal. Weaver has led the development of a new website at Majestic before and drew on this experience during that process.

Offering an insight into the reasons why Intershop was chosen for the core platform, the eCommerce director said: “We reviewed the market carefully but went for Intershop because the out-of-the-box functionality was a good fit for our requirements. By that, I mean it met all our needs but didn’t meet too many needs that we didn’t have – they weren’t over-specifying the technology.”

He added: “It’s very easy when choosing a website platform to look at the list and assume the one with the most functionality is the best, but that’s not the approach we took. The cost benefit with Intershop was also the right choice for us.”

Weaver has worked his way through the ranks at Majestic, having joined the business in 1998 soon after graduating from university. In January 2000 he was promoted to internet manager and since then he has been the eCommerce lead at the company.

Last year, annual online sales growth at the retailer was 16.6%, and eCommerce now accounts for 11.1% of total retail turnover. Majestic is not setting any targets for online growth over the coming years, but the aim is to grow further as part of the wider business which is also looking to increase its property portfolio size.

The eCommerce team now consists of ten staff and the department generates a turnover of more than £31 million, but perhaps as a nod to Majestic’s intrinsically multichannel approach its director does not beat the online retail drum in the manner that other digital experts do.

“Unusually for me as an eCommerce director, I think in some markets we’ll see retail stores continue to be the dominant means of purchasing for many years to come,” he argued.

“Anything related to grocery or anywhere where there is a tactile experience there is still a place for stores. Retailers just need to adapt the way they do retail to continue to succeed in the 21st century – stores won’t die they just need to change.”

Websites need to change, too, and after six years on the same system Majestic made its move to modernise in 2013. Thanks largely to the flourishing tech solutions market and the wide range of tools and services available, Weaver is confident the company has got it right in terms of design, navigation and content.

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