Wholesale Sports Outdoor Outfitters Splashes Into Personalized E-Commerce

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The Canadian retailer drives engagement and conversion rates with customized homepages.
Customer Experience

Dynamic, real-time actions are critical in today's fast-moving retail landscape. Companies need to keep pace with their customers in a connected, cross-channel environment that delivers a consistent experience across various touchpoints. Personalized shopping experiences are also more than nice-to-have features-customers increasingly expect enhanced navigation, customized offerings, and other features from retailers.

Specialty outdoor retailer Wholesale Sports Outdoor Outfitters (WSOO) is one such company that is positioning itself to better meet customer expectations. Even though most customers shop at the Canadian retailer's 13 stores, e-commerce plays an important role in the company's future, notes Adam Dorval, e-commerce and digital strategy manager at WSOO's parent company, United Farmers of Alberta.

"The vast majority of our [WSOO's] business is done in our brick-and-mortar stores," Dorval says. "But we're expecting the e-commerce side of the business to catch up and eventually eclipse it."

In order for WSOO to position itself to take advantage of e-commerce growth opportunities, company leaders needed to modernize its original website since it was difficult for customers to navigate the retailer's catalogue. WSOO also wanted to expand its online presence to reach more potential customers beyond its store locations in western Canada. To address these goals, WSOO turned to hybris software, an SAP company that provides e-commerce tools, to help it build a more user-friendly website with enhanced navigation, personalization, and search features.

The company's first priority was to streamline its online merchandise with filters and customized homepages to make it easier for customers to navigate the site and find products that interest them. In addition to organizing its merchandise under categories such as hunting, fishing, and camping, WSOO assigned its existing customers to tailored homepages based on information from their user profiles.

"Our users can create a profile where they save their interests and the homepage reflects those interests," Dorval explains. "If you had declared yourself primarily a fisher or a hunter, for example, then you'll see more of those products first when you visit our site."

Soon after launching its new e-commerce site in January 2015, WSOO saw a 27 percent jump in year-over-year online conversions as well as a 35 percent increase in year-over-year transactions. Dorval attributed the increase in conversion and transaction rates to the site's improvements, which "have enabled us to elevate our digital catalogue so shoppers can more easily find the brands and products they're looking for, significantly enhancing their online shopping experience."

The company's next step is to "go even deeper into personalization and provide content that's intuitive and dynamic," Dorval adds. "What we've done so far is a self-selected homepage but we'll eventually use data like purchase history from our site and stores [as well as] user behavior to get more advanced in recommending relevant products and other content that's in line with what our customers expect." The company is also weighing the benefits of building a native app as an additional e-commerce tool.

"Anything we do has to resonate with the customer before we invest in it," he notes. "But what we already know is that there's so much going on in retail and marketing that the ability to reach your customers on a one-to-one basis and help them find what they're looking for quickly is more important than ever."

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EXPERT OPINION