Localizing product assortment, pricing and item availability is key to increasing purchase rates worldwide. It ensures that the most relevant products — based on temperature, cultural preferences/styles, overall demand and other factors — are delivered to specific areas seamlessly. In an effort to boost online purchase rates and create a more engaging shopping experience for global customers, Columbia Sportswear Company has extended its partnership with PFSweb, Inc., to provide online, direct-to-consumer support services.
In their initial collaboration, PFSweb, an international provider of end-to-end e-Commerce solutions, and Columbia Sportswear, the active outdoor apparel and footwear retailer, rolled out 18 localized sites for the Columbia and Sorel brands. The project extended into Austria, Belgium, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, The Netherlands, Spain and the U.K. The first site launched in the U.K. on Sept. 5, 2011, followed by the remaining countries two weeks later. Recent and future expansions will include additional sites in these and other regions, according to Paul Zaengle, VP of e-Commerce for Columbia Sportswear Company.
“Columbia’s main goal in this partnership is to increase brand visibility on a global scale,” Zaengle told Retail TouchPoints. “Most consumers research online before buying in store, especially for technical outdoor products. Providing consumers with the ability to perform that research in a locally relevant way — assortment, pricing, availability — was the reason for this investment.”
Operated on a unified global architecture, PFSweb allows clients to extend their e-Commerce programs to multiple geographies with minimal risk of messaging silos and fragmented operations. By outsourcing these functions to PFSweb, Columbia Sportswear Company will prevent disparate back-office and fulfillment systems, and roll out localized sites from the front end more easily.
Columbia will expand its international efforts by utilizing PFSweb’s global warehousing and product fulfillment capabilities, which are supported by the solution provider’s distribution centers in Liege, Belgium, and Toronto, Canada. The retailer also will leverage customer contact services, which are stationed in both countries and staffed to support multiple languages and offer optimal customer experiences across channels. Other features and capabilities provided to ensure an efficient e-Commerce experience for Columbia include: customer order and payment processing; information exchange functionality; account management and reporting services; distribution logistics; management services; and web site sales returns.
“Brand web sites are the top location people research before buying in store,” Zaengle explained. “As a global brand, it is important for us to support our retail partners in these and other key regions. PFSweb, with its expertise in these regions, gives us the ability to launch quickly and efficiently, and provide local customer support and fulfillment.”
During 2012, Columbia will evaluate the impact of its international sites as well as its overall value to retail partners then finalize decisions for further expansion, Zaengle reported.
“Our focus is on telling the story of Columbia’s innovative products in a very localized manner,” Zaengle said. “The product selection is specific by country, as is the pricing. Almost all copy is in the user’s local language and currency, and the site offers local payment methods that are unique to those countries. Since the product is relevant to the consumer’s terrain, climate and weather protection needs, shouldn’t the web site be just as relevant?”
As competition among retailers continues to heat up, it is vital for merchants to develop strong brand presence worldwide, according to Mike Willoughby, President and CIO of PFSweb.
“The most important factor for a successful brand expansion into international markets is a well-executed localization strategy for every customer touch point that is consistent with the brand presence in brick-and-mortar retail,” Willoughby said. “Brand equity must be maintained through consistent branding and visual content with an appropriate cultural, regional and/or national expression.”