How Bombay Achieved Online Success With an E-Commerce Partner
Year after year, more shoppers are making purchases online and through their mobile devices. According to the Quarterly Retail E-Commerce Sales 2nd Quarter 2015 report by the Census Bureau of the Department of Commerce, e-commerce sales in the United States increased 14.1 percent in the quarter year-over-year. With e-commerce business on the rise, it's more important now than ever for merchants to focus online as a strategic sales channel.
Improving and operating an online store can seem daunting for merchants already tasked with managing other facets of their business, such as manufacturing, wholesaling and new product development. However, by partnering with a firm experienced in launching and managing an online shop, they can entrust their e-commerce operations with the partner and concentrate their efforts on running their brand. This article shares the benefits an e-commerce partnership can bring, as evidenced by the successes and ongoing initiatives of the Bombay Company, a luxury furniture and home décor retailer, and its partner Hermes NexTec (part of the Hermes group based in Hamburg, Germany), a firm with expertise in all aspects of e-commerce.
The Bombay Company
Bombay has been well-loved by customers for over 40 years for its premium quality and blend of new with old, and traditional with the exotic. In 2007, Bombay closed the doors on its brick-and-mortar locations and online shop. In its absence, many long-time customers felt a void in the marketplace. Consumer demand for Bombay resulted in the Otto Group, the world's largest mail order company and a leader in e-commerce, purchasing Bombay’s U.S. license in 2011.
Based in Hamburg, Germany, the Otto Group comprises over 250 companies. Hermes-Otto International USA owns Bombay and is working to boost the brand to make it relevant for today's marketplace, from both a product and shopping perspective. Regarding merchandise, Bombay ensures its products are authentic to the archival history of the brand to entice long-time customers, while evolving the brand’s DNA to draw in new clientele. From a shopping perspective, Bombay has no plans to return to brick-and-mortar. Instead, Bombay wholesales and licenses its products to major retailers and sells them through its online store.
Hermes NexTec also is part of the Otto Group. As a sister company and Bombay’s e-commerce partner, Hermes NexTec built Bombay’s online store using a proprietary e-commerce platform specially designed for lifestyle brands. Since launching the site in 2012, Hermes NexTec is now fully responsible for Bombay’s online business, including ensuring a positive customer shopping experience, optimizing the online store’s performance across devices and even driving traffic to the site.
Improved Customer Experience
Product presentation is a critical part of consumers’ online shopping experiences and ultimate buying decisions. For lifestyle brands like Bombay, product presentation via the web can be difficult because so much of a customer’s buying decision depends on a product’s physical characteristics. For instance, if customers go to a brick-and-mortar furniture store to buy a new couch, they can touch its material, test its comfort, see its color and gauge its size to determine if it will fit in their living room. Online, shoppers can only rely on images and product descriptions. If unsure about how a product will appear in person, shoppers are less likely to make a purchase.
An e-commerce partner can optimize a lifestyle brand’s online shop to better translate the physical shopping experience to the web. One way that Hermes NexTec is enhancing Bombay’s customer experience is by implementing zoom functionality into product pages. By being able to zoom in on a prospective item, shoppers can get a better sense of its texture and craftsmanship. Shoppers are then more confident in how the product will appear in real life, leading to higher conversion rates and fewer returns.
Optimization for Mobile Devices
Today’s online consumers are no longer limited to shopping on desktop computers. In fact, in PricewaterhouseCoopers’ 2015 Total Retail survey of over 19,000 individuals from around the world, 47 percent of respondents reported making mobile purchases, whereas in its 2013 survey only 30 percent did. As mobile adoption increases, merchants need to assure their online shop looks good and provides a seamless experience on all devices. If not, shoppers will turn to a merchant that does.
An e-commerce partner can optimize the online store with flexible, responsive design to make it just as easy for smartphone and tablet users to browse and purchase products. Optimization entails more than just scaling down the traditional desktop site to fit on a smaller screen. The e-commerce partner must take into consideration the ease of navigation, number of products displayed, parts of the desktop site to leave out, menu bars and loading time, among other factors, to provide a coherent shopping experience.
Mobile optimization is a priority for Bombay in 2016. Hermes NexTec is tailoring the mobile optimization of Bombay’s website to three different formats — tablets, small tablets and smartphones. Hermes NexTec's development team is individually reviewing each page of Bombay’s site to ensure it offers an exceptional experience no matter the device.
Increased Traffic to the Site
“Build it and they will come” doesn't apply to online stores. Thankfully, e-commerce firms have extensive knowledge in search engine marketing. While Bombay as a brand is engaging with customers through social media and blogging, Hermes NexTec is instrumental in driving traffic to the site through search engine optimization. Hermes NexTec ensures that Bombay’s product descriptions, names and headlines are keyword rich to achieve higher rankings in online search results.
Hermes NexTec also is taking the reins of Bombay’s email marketing, including its newsletter and retargeting campaigns. With Hermes NexTec’s marketing acumen, Bombay is bringing back the people who know and love the brand to shop online and at the same time enabling new consumers to discover its products.
By turning to an e-commerce partner, Bombay can dedicate its attention to brand development. Business is growing, and consumers are finding the site. When Bombay launched its online store in 2012, it had 200 SKUs. Now it has nearly 1,000. Year-over-year, average order value is up 26 percent, average units per order is up 40 percent and sales are up 30 percent. These achievements wouldn't have been possible without an e-commerce partner like Hermes NexTec. For companies that don’t have the time and resources to manage an online store, the expertise of an experienced e-commerce partner is invaluable.
Wil Hollands is president of Hermes-Otto International USA, a one-stop-shop for first class global sourcing.