Ryman puts multichannel at core


Stationery retailer Ryman is refocusing on becoming a
multichannel player and is overhauling its website. It appointed
digital agency Essence to redesign the website, whilst
e-inbusiness has been tasked with building the site on its
eibCommerce platform. The new platform includes a call centre and
fulfilment module to streamline customer service, as well as a
product information management module.

“We are a very successful high-street retailer, but we
recognised the need to develop our other channels to support the
way that today’s shoppers research and purchase their office
supplies and stationery,” says Ryman’s ecommerce director,
Andy Harding. “By making the website central to our
business operations for the telesales and stores, we can give
customers so much more flexibility about how they shop, where
they shop, and which products and services they have access
to.” Harding will not divulge what percentage of orders is
currently received online, but he admits it is “a lot less
than we believe it should be”. He adds that Ryman is not
setting its goals based on a percentage of total business but
rather on how many new customers it acquires through the site and
what level of new business it can generate by having an improved
product and pricing proposition.

In addition to the website and 240 bricks-and-mortar stores,
Ryman produces an annual print catalogue. Distributed in January
to stores and b-to-b requesters, the catalogue lists 14,000
products and is primarily used in-store to allow customers to
order from ranges not stocked on-site. “We believe that
catalogues remain an important method for some people to search
for products,” says Harding, “although our new
website search engine will make it much quicker to find the
product they are looking for.”

Since joining the business in July 2007, Harding has focused on
positioning the website so that it satisfies both consumer and
business customers. During the past two years Ryman completed
several other initiatives aimed at driving sales or reducing
costs. These included rationalising the pick and pack operation,
launching a sales channel through Amazon, developing a student
discount scheme, launching online gift cards, and dabbling in
social networking through Twitter.
Harding is aiming for the first phase of the new site, such as
design improvements, to launch by Christmas. The second phase,
which will include most of the functionality upgrades, will
launch in early 2010.

Revamp: other notable website relaunches
Firebox.com unveiled a new site in July with
larger images and videos, more community features such as a live
Twitter feed and customer ratings, easier navigation, and a
personalised AJAX shopping basket. The site now takes advantage
of the full width of the screen and today’s larger monitor sizes,
instead of being centred with considerable blank space on either
side.

Also relaunched in July, the Pet Supermarket
website has added products for reptiles, horses, and wild birds
to its range. It also offers improved navigation and an enhanced
search feature.

Organic-food purveyor Abel & Cole unveiled a
fresh site in July as well. Big Fish Design created the new look,
and Pixelgroup improved the functionality, alongside in-house
design and development work. The revamped site offers images of
every product, more product information, and a focus on
delivering personalised content such as when deliveries are made
in the local area.

Kaleidoscope, a Freemans Grattan Holdings
catalogue, relaunched its website in August. The new design
includes a top navigation fly-out, restructured product
categories, the introduction of a year-round holiday shop, a
footwear department, and improvements to the checkout process.

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