For companies first venturing into the e-Commerce space, the process may seem a little daunting, particularly if the products being sold are unique. Several factors need to be considered, including: overall site design, experience, product assortment and how the e-Commerce site will integrate with other marketing and commerce strategies.
Murdoch’s Ranch & Home Supply is tackling the e-Commerce space by focusing primarily on the western lifestyle and creating a more upscale experience than found at a typical farm and ranch store.
“Part of how we’ve grown our customer base is our focus on appeal more to people who live out west versus just the traditional farmers and ranchers,” said Kitch Walker, Director of Marketing for Murdoch’s, in an interview with Retail TouchPoints. The retailer wanted to create a “modern-day mercantile store” that offered a “breadth and depth of products.”
With the e-Commerce site launching in March 2013, Murdoch’s considered the holiday season a pivotal period to move inventory.
Products went on sale multiple times a week from the Wednesday before Thanksgiving until Christmas day. Additionally, Murdoch’s tapped display ads, pay-per-click advertising and email marketing to drive awareness and traffic to the e-Commerce site. Even traditional media channels, such as radio and print “all mention things that are happening online,” Walker noted. “[It’s a] constant reminder that we have an e-Commerce site.”
Initially, the Murdoch’s e-Commerce site launched with a total of 9,000 SKUs. Now with approximately 38,000 SKUs and 371 brands, the site is on a path to consistent growth. However, to remain on this course to online success, the retailer needs to execute the experience as an online representation of a Murdoch’s store, according to Walker.
To that end, Murdoch’s is focused on refining and optimizing “how we communicate and link products to lifestyle scenarios and sale events,” Walker said. “It’s not just about driving traffic and sales online, but building engaged communities that also drive traffic to stores.”
Accelerating E-Commerce Growth
Providing apparel and footwear for men, women and children, and even equine, pet and home products, the Murdoch’s team wanted to ensure the e-Commerce site offered a deep and wide variety of goods to confirm its role as a lifestyle retailer, added Lance Tinseth, Director of IT at Murdoch’s. “I don’t think our requirements are much different than other retailers, but we really wanted to own the entire online customer experience.”
Several employees were hired across a variety of departments to help plan and launch the new e-Commerce site. Kitch, Tinseth and Jim Verzuh, e-Store Manager for the retailer, established a wish list to strategize and prioritize investments.
This collaborative strategy is “a hybrid of small-business entrepreneurialism and enterprise infrastructures,” Walker said. “All teams play together to perform at the front- and back-end of e-marketing and e-Commerce.”
To create a memorable and enjoyable online shopping experience, Murdoch’s implemented the EPiServer e-Commerce solution, which allows the retailer to “customize the site to the level that we expected for our customers,” Tinseth said. “We wanted to be able to replicate the in-store shopping experience while also scaling deep and vertical for the products we offer online.”
Typically, Murdoch’s stores have between 60,000 and 80,000 active SKUs, or 212,000 unique SKUs over the course of the year, Verzuh added. “We wanted to be able to launch an online store that not only carried the traditional items found in a store, but also enable long-tail strategies. That way, we also could offer extended models and sizes that a store may never carry.”
Using the EPiServer platform, Murdoch’s should be able to carry up to 500,000 SKUs on the site, and enable team members to integrate products that are entered into the in-store POS system, Tinseth explained. For example, if a customer purchases a gift card in a store, he will be able to use it online. “We want all of those touch points to work very seamlessly. We can really control the platform, choose third-party solutions that we believe are best-of-breed and integrate them into the platform.”
Because the e-Commerce space is in such a constant state of flux, Murdoch’s is trying to focus on key investments in light of “a lot of shiny objects,” Verzuh said. “There’s a lot of experimentation needed to help us figure out what’s going to move the needle and determine the right way to reach our customers. There’s a lot of ‘run fast, measure and change.’”
Although Murdoch’s didn’t have a specific goal in place for Q3 2013 because the e-Commerce site is still a relatively new channel, “we’ve been overwhelmingly surprised at how well we’ve done since the beginning of the holiday season,” Verzuh reported. “We’re only scratching the surface of what we can do, but the goals we have — in terms of revenue, traffic and customer satisfaction — are pretty high.”