For most retailers, a multichannel strategy means uniting best practices from the bricks-and-mortar stores and online sites to provide a seamless experience for customers and prospects.
Ty Simpson's multichannel business contains no walls. But at times, the toy retailer felt like he was running two separate businesses. Ty's Toy Box is an online seller (www.tystoybox.com) of famous toy brands, from Strawberry Shortcake to The Wiggles.
While selling merchandise harried parents likely can't find elsewhere, Ty's Toy Box itself also is not so easy to locate. So Simpson also sells his wares through additional channels such as other retailing sites including eBay and Overstock.com.
“Our Web site is our primary channel, but we use those other channels [like eBay] to create brand awareness for Ty's Toy Box,” said Simpson, president of Ty's Toy Box, Erlanger, KY. “EBay, in particular, is a great way to get your name out there. And by using these other channels, you are also acquiring customers.”
But Simpson found that having more than one Internet presence diluted the type of service he wanted to provide customers. He wanted customers to get the best service from his site regardless of how they reached Ty's Toy Box. The company's back-end functions also were split in two: Ty's maintained two separate inventories and checkout systems. If one “store” or channel sold out of an item, the company scrambled to move inventory from another channel.
“We had to run a technology platform for our Web site and also run a separate platform for eBay, which meant those two inventories, two areas where we had to upload the inventory and two checkout systems,” he said. “There was two of everything. It was almost like running two companies at that point.”
Simpson turned to Truition's CMS (commerce management system), a hosted and customizable multichannel e-commerce platform, to help manage the retailer's multiple marketing and sales channels. Ty's Toy Box started working with Truition last February and began shifting to the new platform in April. The company now has a multichannel checkout system designed to boost upsell and cross-sell opportunities. Plus, there's now one centralized inventory database and fulfillment system. The consolidation naturally makes these processes more efficient. In addition, employees need training on only one system instead of two.
Simpson stressed that the new platform lets Ty's Toy Box provide strong service to customers regardless of how they “enter” the store.
“It's giving the user the same experience no matter who they are,” he said. “There's no reason to treat an eBay customer any differently than a [Ty's Toy Box] Web site customer. That's the ultimate goal here.”
All customers, whether they visit Ty's Toy Box directly or via a channel such as eBay, use the checkout on the Ty's Toy Box site.
“Every customer also has the ability, no matter where they buy from, to add more products to their cart from our Web site before checking out. That allows us to increase our per-order dollar amount,” said Simpson, who estimates that 35 percent of eBay transactions include additional purchases by customers and that half of all eBay transactions are generated from repeat buyers.
“The idea is to make the customer buying experience seamless across all of the channels so the customer is getting that experience whether they are buying something from Ty's Toy Box or eBay,” said Mike Hennessy, director of marketing at Truition, Toronto.
This new e-commerce platform also lets Ty's Toy Box add sales channels (eBay and Overstock.com are just the beginning) and positions the retailer for steady growth by enabling it to easily add new “stores” in the future. A store can be launched on the site in just two weeks, Simpson said.
“We basically have a replicable process now where each site has a similar look and feel and plug in different pieces of artwork and the different components that micro-stores require,” he said. “We actually work with the property owners of these brands. And we're going to continue to add brands that we feel are underrepresented at traditional retail and need a home and a place for customers to purchase them.”
Though these brands let Ty's begin relationships with customers, the site doesn't rely entirely on a customer's devotion to a particular brand to make her loyal. To further engage customers, the site also includes a blog and offers an e-newsletter.
“We want to set the foundation for significant growth,” Simpson said. “[Last] year has been a year of making sure we have everything build out so we can expand more rapidly [this] year.”