June 3, 2013, 1:01 PM

Top of the Line

(Page 2 of 2)

Bol.com b.v., No. 39 in the Europe 500, is a Netherlands-based retailer that started in 1999 as a web-only retailer of books, and expanded over the next several years into such categories as consumer electronics, toys and home appliances. With 7.5 million products for sale and up to 980,000 visitors and 9.2 million page views in a single day, it decided in 2008 to launch a new web site on the ATG platform with site search from Endeca Technologies Inc., both of which are now part of Oracle Corp. Acquired in March 2012 by Netherlands-based supermarket chain Ahold, which had recently migrated its own e-commerce technology to Oracle, bol.com is now integrated with the Ahold e-commerce sites and allows shoppers to pick up orders placed on bol.com at Ahold stores.

Privalia Group, a Barcelona-based flash-sale retailer launched in 2006, has grown to several hundred million euros in international sales, the retailer says. No. 47 in the Europe 500, it's invested in a new IBM Corp. e-commerce platform that will run the five international versions of flash-sale site Privalia.com (in Spain, Italy, Brazil, Mexico and Germany) and Privalia Group's relatively new dress-for-less.com, which is based in Germany and sells off-price designer apparel in a conventional, non-flash format to consumers in 61 countries.

Privalia purchased dress-for-less.com in March 2011 to expand beyond flash sales to enter what it calls "permanent outlet" sales. "In recent years our global sales numbers have been growing annually, and in 2012 that trend has continued, thanks to the growth of e-commerce in the markets in which we operate and a strong multichannel management," says Lucas Carné, co-founder of Privalia.

Debenhams, the London-based department store chain, has developed a mobile commerce presence ranked the highest among 30 retailers serving Europe in a February 2013 study by London-based digital marketing agency EpiServer AB. The study cited Debenhams for having the strongest mobile apps for iPhone, iPad and Android, and singled out the iPad app, which the retailer developed with London-based design firm Do Tank Studios, for being easy to navigate and shop.

T.M.Lewin, a London-based apparel retail chain with more than 100 stores and about 30 million pounds (US$46.1 million) in web sales, has launched three web sites since 2010 using the Internet-hosted DynamicCommerce e-commerce system from eCommera Ltd. in conjunction with the Demandware Inc. software-as-a-service e-commerce platform, to serve markets in the United States, Australia and across Europe. Each site shows the pricing and delivery schedules particular to each market. It costs from $200,000 to $1 million to set up DynamicCommerce, including the Demandware platform, with annual subscription fees of $250,000 to $5 million, according to eCommera chief scientist Michael Ross, who is the former CEO of U.K. apparel retailer Figleaves.com.

The retailer has also deployed eCommera's DynamicAction analytics application, which compiles data from such sources as web and store sales records, marketing campaigns and inventory management systems, to recommend actions for boosting sales and profits. Andrew Mossman, T.M.Lewin's director of home shopping, says the retailer can now, for example, identify web pages with high traffic but low conversion rates, then readjust product assortments and other content to boost conversions. The setup costs for DynamicAction run $20,000 to $50,000, with the annual subscription fee ranging from $50,000 to $100,000, Ross says.

As retailers move ahead with e-commerce and multichannel development projects, little goes unnoticed by their competitors. "We're trying to learn from retailers in the U.K. and the United States," says Galeries Lafayette's Zayan. The retail chain is loosening its purse strings to invest in a new e-commerce platform along with add-on applications that help it better engage shoppers, he says. Although he wouldn't disclose his budget, he says Galeries Lafayette is spending a much larger percent of its online revenue on e-commerce and omnichannel technology today than before 2011, though still far less than 10% of total revenue.

After researching the e-commerce technology market, Galeries Lafayette chose Germany-based hybris AG because of its ability to integrate data and operations across online and offline channels, Zayan says. Built from the ground up with web-based technology, hybris provides stronger integration among software applications than is available through other technology platforms, enabling it, for example, to better share consistent and accurate product data across web and mobile sites and with store systems, he says. The retailer deployed hybris along with Endeca site search and navigation technology (now part of Oracle Corp.) with help from technology consultants and systems integrators Keyrus in Paris and Zurich, Switzerland-based Unic.

Zayan says the hybris technology minimized the time required for Galeries Lafayette to integrate its new web and mobile sites with its store checkout system and its Oracle accounting and inventory management software. The result makes possible programs like click and collect, and allows the retailer to show consumers consistent product data no matter how they're shopping. Galeries Lafayette also uses web analytics technology from France-based Eulerian and Google Analytics; for web performance management, it relies on Nagios Inc.; for order management and fulfillment, Reflex software from Hardis Group.

In addition, the retailer is testing in-store touch-screen kiosks at three locations to let store shoppers and store clerks place orders online, and plans to introduce tablet computers this year for the same purpose. It's also building an English-language version of GaleriesLafayette.com and evaluating new sites for markets in Europe and Asia.

Other plans include building a product recommendations application and improving how the retailer updates cross-channel inventory records for viewing by shoppers as well as employees. A shopper in a store who can't find a particular size or color of a product will be able to see which other Galeries Lafayette stores have it in stock, Zayan says.

Galeries Lafayette is also working with Paris-based Backelite, a mobile web design firm, to replace the retailer's mobile site with a version of its primary e-commerce site that, through the use of responsive design techniques, will adjust to fit smartphone and tablet screens. Another project team is building a mobile/local application using GPS technology that will send registered shoppers offers to their smartphones when they shop the retailer's flagship store in Paris.

This is one 19th-century retail icon that is making the investments necessary to thrive in the 21st century.

paul@verticalwebmedia.com

@pdemery

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