February 28, 2014, 4:46 PM

Nikon frames its new site around pleasing all types of customers

The photography goods manufacturer is launching a new site on SAP’s hybris e-commerce platform. Whether a customer is a consumer, a mom-and-pop store or a mass merchant e-retailer, the features and functions are all in line with a typical shopping site, Nikon executive David Dentry says.

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While many of Nikon Inc.’s customers are likely proficient in far more than “point and shoot photography,” the manufacturer of cameras and other photographic equipment doesn’t require any advanced skills to shop on its new web site.

Nikon is launching a U.S. e-commerce site that caters as easily to an individual consumer looking for a lens she can’t find anywhere else as to a mass merchant reseller like Amazon.com Inc. or Best Buy Co. Inc., senior general manager of customer experience David Dentry says. “Whether on the business-to-consumer or business-to-business side, customers are familiar with the online shopping experience and we want to keep as close to that as possible,” he says. That way, there’s “no need to learn a new process just to order with us.” Most of Nikon’s customers, by far, are businesses, he adds.

For its business buyers, Nikon tweaks the marketing messaging and available support materials—like product specifications and guides. For example, business customers will be able to find more information on how to sell and market particular Nikon products, whereas a consumer will see more messaging encouraging her to buy for herself, Dentry says. The site also offers a one-page interface for bulk buyers to quickly upload or enter a large order using SKU or parts numbers, “without being bogged down by all the pretty marketing stuff,” he says.

All the B2B functions of the e-commerce site aren’t yet live, such as the ability to enter SKU numbers to place orders, but will be sometime mid-summer this year, Dentry says. All the B2C elements are up and running today. “Phase one was to replace the existing B2C platform, but we knew that sometime in the future we’d want to add B2B,” he says. Which business-to-business e-commerce features it will add are still up for discussion, he says.

For example, the manufacturer is toying with ideas about how it might offer franchise-style web sites for its retailer resellers—including specialty stores that may have never sold online before—to sell Nikon products from their own Nikon-branded web stores, he says. Or, Nikon might create a portal from its e-commerce site through which it can push product information and marketing materials to retailers’ existing web sites. That would help them sell, while also ensuring consistent Nikon information and branding.

Sign Up for B@Becnews for FREENikon selected the hybris e-commerce platform in large part because it offered the flexibility to create such varied, custom web sites and functions, Dentry says. Additionally, he says, Nikon Europe had already used the German-based e-commerce platform to build a successful B2B site several years ago. “My European counterparts’ feedback on their experience played a role in the decision,” he says.

Another advantage of hybris is that the platform comes with built-in language and currency support for international expansion, Dentry says. Nikon plans to expand the U.S. site into versions for B2C and B2B e-commerce in Canada, and for B2C e-commerce in Brazil, he says.  

Launching these future sites could eventually be faster and easier than the first one, Dentry says. That’s because, this past summer, business software company SAP AG purchased hybris, and Nikon had already been using SAP software for most of its back-end accounting and management, he says. In time, SAP has said it will fully integrate hybris with SAP’s so-called enterprise resource planning software, which will help businesses already using one of them to deploy software from the other company.

For Nikon, the acquisition was more of a fortunate coincidence than part of its reasoning in selecting hybris. The camera company had begun evaluating hybris when it was still a standalone e-commerce platform, Dentry says. “We knew they were going to be acquired by someone. We guessed it would be Adobe or SAP,” he says. “That was a good thing for us,” because of Nikon’s existing use of SAP products.

On one hand, Dentry says the acquisition somewhat changed what he initially liked about hybris—that it was a company devoted entirely to e-commerce, not spread across other business categories as are such large vendors as SAP, IBM Corp. and Oracle Corp. So far, however, he says that all signs point to hybris continuing its focus on features and functions related to online shopping, and the proposed integration with SAP, he predicts, will likely be beneficial for Nikon.

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