May 20, 2014, 1:51 PM

How Puma is improving sales operations through e-commerce

The sports footwear and apparel brand designer and manufacturer is better balancing how it interacts with consumers and its business customers by gaining more insight into consumer demand. The insights are helping it boost its own online sales, says Tom Davis, global head of e-commerce.

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Puma, the Germany-based sports footwear and apparel brand designer and manufacturer, is using e-commerce to interact with shoppers and learn more about consumer demand. Connecting with shoppers via the web is helping Puma improve how it designs its products and markets them through wholesale as well as retail channels, says Tom Davis, global head of e-commerce.

Davis, in a keynote address at the first-ever IRCE Focus: Brands & B2B conference and trade show in New York, said that Puma has traditionally separated its web sites into two parts: one for its brand identity and focused more on lifestyle images rather than product details, the other for online shopping.

But that strategy can confuse shoppers, he added. When shoppers arrive at the site for shoppers in the United States, they must first choose between two links to enter the site: the “World of Puma” link for the corporate brand image, and the “Start Shopping” link to shop and make purchases.

In Europe, however, five new e-commerce sites Puma recently launched, including for the United Kingdom, combine both the company’s branding strategy and online shopping. The new design, which was intended to provide a simpler and more useful shopping experience, has already boosted conversion rates by 10% to 20% and increased average order value by 12%, Davis said in an interview following his presentation.

In addition to increased sales, the new site is also helping Puma to better gather and analyze data on how online customers shop and on their preferences for product designs. In turn, Puma is beginning to share that data with its internal teams that design products, develop merchandising assortments and displays, and run marketing campaigns, Davis said. When it comes to understanding consumers’ interests in Puma’s products, “e-commerce fills a gap,” Davis told his conference audience.

By using that data on consumer interests to improve how it markets products and engages with consumers, Puma is also helping to build its overall brand image and helping to drive wholesale sales to its retailer clients as well as total sales including its direct-to-consumer transactions, Davis said. The company is also considering developing a web portal where it would share such data with wholesale clients, he added. Puma does about 80% of its total sales in wholesale transactions with retailers.

Maintaining strong control over customer data is crucial to a brand company’s long-term success, Davis said. Selling channels often change, and brands often migrate from selling on a home-grown e-commerce site to new commercially available platforms and third-party marketplaces, Davis said. But the most important thing is to maintain a company’s product and customer data in a central data warehouse withaccurate data files that can be integrated with new c-commerce platforms and e-marketplaces, he added. “You need to keep product information in a data warehouse that is agile enough to pump and dump that data into different channels,” he said.

Davis said Puma is using data warehouse technology from Heiler Software, which is part of Informatica Corp. and includes workflow software features for assigning management of data segments to teams of data managers. For e-commerce, Puma is running its European sites as well as other sites on e-commerce technology from Demandware Inc. It’s also building e-commerce sites using eBay Inc.’s Magento Community Edition e-commerce technology as a less costly option of launching sites in emerging markets like Australia and Latin America.

Having such technology in place is helping Puma better prepare for what Davis said is extremely strong growth ahead in international e-commerce sales. “The opportunities in China and Latin America will be unbelievable,” he said.

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