June 3, 2013, 12:54 PM

A closer look at Fossil.com: Digital core

Web sales grew steadily but slowly for watch and accessories manufacturer Fossil Inc. from its online launch in 1996 until 2009 when the company stepped up its focus on the web.

Web sales grew steadily but slowly for watch and accessories manufacturer Fossil Inc. from its online launch in 1996 until 2009 when the company stepped up its focus on the web, says chief technology officer Philip Thompson. That's when the brand moved its e-commerce platform in-house and created a team to coordinate all aspects of digital marketing and commerce.

Fossil has doubled its web sales since 2009, Thompson says, and in 2010 it began expanding internationally. It now sells in 13 countries besides the United States. Fossil had 2012 web sales of $99.2 million, up 259.4% from $27.6 million in 2003, according to Internet Retailer estimates. That makes its 10-year compound annual growth rate 15.27%, beating the 14.77% average rate for the 66 consumer brand manufacturers in the Top 500 Guide.

Now Fossil is pushing web functionality into the 390 stores it operates worldwide to connect its online and offline operations. The goal, Thompson says, is to operate Fossil as a single, united business across the web and bricks-and-mortar stores.

That means updating store displays and web sites to match one another as often as every two weeks, experimenting with allowing employees to check out shoppers in stores via mobile devices and leveraging Fossil's order management, shipping and other e-commerce services in stores. For example, the rich images created for Fossil's web site can also be viewed in its mobile app—and it plans to bring that app into Fossil stores for store associates to use to assist customers, perhaps helping them to buy items online that are out of stock, Thompson says.

Fossil can also syndicate other parts of its e-commerce site, like photography or its interactive catalog, to its resellers' web sites. For example, the brand works to let shoppers create custom Fossil charms for bracelets or necklaces using its charm-builder tool from within resellers' web sites, he says. Shoppers never know they're actually designing on Fossil's e-commerce platform, a selling point to Fossil resellers hosting the design tool.

"If you buy a Fossil product or one of the other brands we manufacture from a [reseller's] web site, there's a very good chance it actually flows through our order management system, and we might even be handling the shipping to you as well," Thompson says. "That ensures we're providing a consistent brand experience wherever you shop." To prepare for the future, the brand has also reorganized its internal staff, hiring a new executive in charge of both physical and web stores, and many developers, programmers and other creative and design specialists, Thompson says.

"So far the initial results have been fantastic," he says. "We've had some great sales year over year and expanded into new markets very easily because of the platform and organizational changes."

amy@verticalwebmedia.com

@AmyDusto

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