Full Speed Ahead: Lionel Drives a 12% Lift in e-Commerce Sales

The model train maker brought its customer experience up to speed with a unified commerce platform.
Customer Experience

Since 1900, model train maker Lionel has ignited the imagination of children and adults with its miniature trains and trolley cars. Although Lionel's model trains and cars continue to delight customers, the company needed a powerful e-commerce platform to keep up with today's customer demands.

Previously, Lionel Trains, Lionel's model train business, and Lionel Racing, its line of model NASCAR race cars, ran on an e-commerce platform that didn't integrate with Lionel's financials, inventory, and order management software. As a result, the company faced numerous challenges conducting business with consumers and its retail partners. To change prices, for instance, employees had to perform time-consuming batch processing and dual system updates.

"We were running into issues where we had to sometimes tell customers we didn't have the product they had just ordered online and reports weren't matching up," says Rick Gemereth, Lionel's vice president of IT and operations. "These were headaches no one wants to have."

In September 2014, Lionel turned to NetSuite, a business management software provider, for help. Lionel already uses the vendor's ERP software to support its financial records, as well as inventory and order management information. Conveniently, NetSuite had recently added new features to its SuiteCommerce solution, allowing Lionel to take advantage of a unified commerce platform that gives it deeper insights into its customer, sales, and inventory data.

The train maker's first priority was to revamp its e-commerce sites. With the help ofSixRed, a NetSuite solution partner, Lionel relaunched its Lionel Racing site in four months and the Lionel Trains site in two months. The improvements include self-service functionalities that allow customers to track orders and review their purchase histories. The enhancements also include responsive design and real-time data access across customer, order, and inventory statuses.

The relaunch of the Lionel Racing site was particularly timely, because it allowed the company to participate in the racing season which runs from February to November. "We got the new website up just ahead of the NASCAR season, which was critical because we want to let customers know that we replicate the winning cars down to every dent and scratch," Gemereth explains. "Now we're able to show customers images of the cars on our site almost as soon as the race is over."

Gemereth attributes the site's new features like the ability to zoom in on images and to shop for cars by driver to an increase in sales. Compared to the previous year, Lionel has already seen a 12 percent lift in sales of its racing models since launching the new site.

On the train side, Lionel is focusing on the upcoming holiday season and expects to see a large sales uplift there as well. Gemereth temporarily put the brakes on testing additional site features during the holidays, but the company will resume making improvements as soon as possible, he says. "One of the things we'll be doing next is looking at our data for patterns and trends about what our customers are doing so that we can better serve them," he says. "But having inventory visibility across the organization has already helped us create a superior user experience and it's just a matter of continuing to make improvements."