The sportswear company Columbia recently launched a mobile commerce strategy with the aim of empowering its retail partners.
Columbia has a long reputation for stylish clothing fused with high performance. For 70 years they have been along the forefront of innovating outdoor clothing, footwear, and accessories.
But Columbia is not only a sportswear brand; it is also a company that develops and distributes products for a range of other brands such as Sorel, Mountain Hardwear, Pacific Trail, and Montrail.
All in all, the company boasted yearly sales of $1.2 billion.
Careful loyalty cultivation is a core component of Columbia’s strategy when it comes to its retail partners. “Retailers are our lifeblood,” stated Paul Zaengle, its VP of ecommerce. “And we had to be 100% sure that our ecommerce initiative wouldn’t step on their toes and compete with them.
“For us, ecommerce is primarily about supporting our retail partners’ selling efforts, and only secondarily about direct-to-consumer sales.”
The team at Columbia discovered a space for opportunity when it came to its partners after a report found that consumers actually ranked manufacturing websites as the best source of information when it comes to the products they buy – that means they’re trusted even more so than friends, ads, and publications.
Anchored into the report is that over half of shoppers research products online before they actually buy them.
Plugging in Salesforce Commerce Cloud, Columbia went to work by designing and creating benefits for its partners and customers. Firstly, they set out by building a mobile ecommerce experience.
“We saw that mobile ecommerce was particularly interesting and attractive to Columbia,” said Paul. “As [consumers] stand in the aisles and look at the product alternatives, they want to look at videos, user reviews, prices, and more – right from their mobile devices. It’s about providing just-in-time information to the consumer.
“Our mobile commerce site also emphasizes the importance of user reviews,” added Paul. “People trust these ratings and we think that’s crucial to driving sales – so we’re taking that ‘wisdom of the crowd’ and effectively putting it in our retailers’ stores.”
What about the store?
Columbia’s ecommerce website wasn’t neglected, either. And it also played a central role in its renovations.
“This site is a source of revenue and profit,” said Paul. “There are going to be some situations where a consumer will want to purchase online. For example, he might not live near one of our retail partners.”
Powered by Commerce Cloud, its ecommerce website is a strong representation of its brand online. “If you’re buying outerwear or footwear,” said Paul, “we represent the brand and products better than anyone else. We invest in the creation of images and videos for our own site, but also provide those to our retail partners to improve their ability to sell our products online as well,”
Back to mobile, Columbia launched support for mobiles in just six weeks, as it decided to support half of the biggest handsets on the market, generating around 90% of the traffic.
Its new mobile store provides outdoor lovers incredible access to Columbia’s products from their pockets. Now, shopping on their site provides features such as a full product catalog, subcategories, customer reviews, product LPs, store locators, and very importantly, a smooth and seamless checkout experience.
Together in unity
Managing different platforms can be tough; unifying them makes it much easier. Columbia carries out its daily operations through a singular, unified platform – both its ecommerce website as well as its mobile store.
Managing from a unified platform extremely reduces the amount of maintenance on the site as well as all the duplicates and updates. And with Salesforce Commerce Cloud, Columbia is able to customize and extend its mobile store capabilities.
The mobile strategy of Columbia was rolled out to other brands such as Sorel and Mountain Hardwear. And it’s planning to expand even further as well as a new marketing strategy for mobile search engines.
“We believe that merging the online and offline world is the right strategy for our business,” Paul added. Its mobile commerce “is about surprising and delighting consumers who can research products and make decisions right there in the store.” With Commerce Cloud, it provided “a fast and affordable options for us – and it’s strengthening our brand and our relationship with consumers and retailers.”