August 17, 2012, 4:20 PM

Rapala hooks its first e-commerce site

The fishing goods distributor consolidated all its brands and added sales to consumers.

Lead Photo

Rapala, a distributor of lures and other fishing accessories, has a new e-commerce site, marking the first time the company is selling directly to consumers. With help from developers at REV Solutions, the merchant now has 11 of its brands live on an e-commerce platform from Demandware Inc.; the twelfth will be added to Rapala.com within the next few weeks.

“We recognize that e-commerce is an opportunity and it’s a good strategic business move to get into that space,” says Naomi Dwyer, vice president of I.T. at Rapala. However, she stresses that the goal is not to compete with the company’s retailer clients but to provide another selling and marketing outlet for the brands; to that end, Rapala keeps its product prices slightly higher than those charged by retailers that sell its products.

The move has solved a big consistency problem for Rapala. Since most of its brands are the result of acquisitions, they came with their own established web sites—informational, not e-commerce—hosted  on different technology platforms and with various styles and types of content, Dwyer says. Until now, Rapala hadn’t had the time or resources to consolidate and organize these sites. But once the company decided to go into e-commerce, a common selling platform became a necessity.

In part, that’s because Rapala wants consumers to be able to buy products from all its brands using a single shopping cart—which Rapala calls the ‘Tackle Box’. Other goals of the new e-commerce initiative include updating the look and feel of each brand, having a central repository for all the company’s marketing materials and managing a single e-commerce system.

“In the beginning of the process, Demandware really stuck out,” Dwyer says. Its Software-as-a-Service model, which means Demandware hosts its software on its own servers and retailers pay subscription fees to access it remotely, appealed to her because it means her small I.T. staff won’t have to build and maintain the hardware and software that will run Rapala.com. The Demandware software also allows Rapala employees to update the site easily. While REV Solutions helps Rapala with its major coding needs, if Demandware’s platform didn’t include an easy interface, the company would need to hire more technical staff to maintain the e-commerce site, she says.

The project took five months of preparation before going live. Each of the Rapala brands appears on the site with its own tab in the top navigation bar and each has its own URL that redirects to Rapala.com. For example, a shopper who searches for VMC fish hooks will see VMChooks.com as an option on the search results page, but clicking on that link takes him, via a redirect, to the VMC tab on Rapala.com. That way, consumers searching for items from any of the brands will still land on the consolidated Rapala site, Dwyer says.

“We’ve been extremely happy with the whole process and where we’re at,” she says. The site has never been down since it first went live in November and Rapala has already received a number of automatic upgrades—new features, enhancements or fixes—she says, “but it’s so seamless we don’t even know.” Dwyer says she finds out about many updates after Demandware sends her an e-mail notification. “We’ve had very healthy sales since we launched,” she says. “We’ve seen an increase every time we add a new product line.” She declined to share dollar values for the sales.

Rapala plans to take advantage of two other Demandware features later: responsive web design and technical training. Responsive web design adjusts a web site’s display according to the size of the screen a visitor is viewing it on—Rapala will leverage that to roll out a mobile site next year, Dwyer says. She also plans to send at least one I.T. staffer to participate in one of the vendor’s technical training programs, which will incur another fee but ultimately allow Rapala to tweak even more of the platform itself. Demandware did not reveal how much training costs.

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