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No Tall Tale

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W hen a retailer’s mission is to be the “first choice in shopping for tall women worldwide,” it clearly needs a broad and nimble approach to growth and promotion.

Long Tall Sally (LTS), a fashion retailer based in London that caters to women taller than 5 ft. 8 in., has more than 30 locations in the U.K., Canada, Germany and the United States, as well as seasonal pop-up shops.

“We’re channel-agnostic,” says Andrew Shapin, managing director of LTS. “We’re all about getting great fashion to tall women, making them look and feel gorgeous.” But first, tall women have to find LTS.

“The web is perfect for us,” says Shapin, whose company has had an e-commerce presence since 1997. “Because we’re a niche business, the web gives tall women a way to locate us. And we can deliver what our customers need that way.”

Until 2008, when LTS implemented an e-commerce platform based on a sophisticated product content management system, Shapin says it was impossible to customize the site so that women living in different countries could see products on pages targeted to their geographic regions. Equally as frustrating, women couldn’t pay for purchases in their own currencies or receive deliveries quickly.

hybris Commerce changed all that.

Content optimization
LTS looked “across about 15 platforms, big and small,” says Shapin. “We found that hybris, through its partner Portaltech in the U.K., was able to build a focal site with the features we wanted in about 10 weeks — and at a highly competitive price.”

Developed by multi-channel commerce and communication software provider hybris, hybris Commerce “gave us the ability to personalize and be really dynamic in the way we market and manage our product content,” he says.

“We now have what we think is a market-leading site, competing favorably with some of the world’s largest online retailers.”

Before the implementation, LTS had to use a third party to make marketing and merchandising changes. Because it only had one site at that time, the changes were just for the U.K. market and primarily seasonal in nature.

LTS now makes those changes “daily when needed with no problems,” Shapin says. “The platform is highly flexible and scalable. Promotions management is very important to us. It enables us to optimize our content at any time, for whatever kinds of promotions we are doing for our customers. We can move products around [the websites] daily. Before, we couldn’t have done that.”

Prior to implementing hybris Commerce, approximately 90 percent of LTS’s business was in the U.K. “Now it’s only 40 percent in the U.K., and while our U.K. business has grown, our international business has skyrocketed,” Shapin says.

Instead of running one e-commerce site, LTS runs six “localized” sites on the hybris Commerce business-to-consumer platform. That means that currency, product mix, delivery options and payment options are “all relevant to the local markets.

Now, “we are able to alter the product set based on what we can cost-effectively ship to an individual market,” Shapin says. “We couldn’t do any of that previously. There is a lot of plumbing that has to happen for the various integrations, but hybris supports these complex integrations internationally with no problems. And the bottom line is that it’s helped us to rapidly grow sales.”

Customizable user experiences
Andrew Piscina, sales director for hybris U.K., says hybris Commerce offers such a high degree of flexibility as well as swift implementation because its design includes “a multi-channel project accelerator with many pre-designed features, functions, processes and templates that radically reduce the cost of the implementation.”

At the center of the platform is a product information management (PIM) suite that lets e-retailers like LTS create electronic catalogs, “repositories holding all relevant product information that relates to a website,” Piscina says.

All the master product data resides “in one consolidated and enriched electronic catalog, in a hierarchy that is categorized in different ways according to the attributes of each product,” he says. “You can have multiple websites and take subsets of that product data and share them on the different sites as well as make them unique to each site.

“We create the product catalog once,” Piscina says, “but then we define automated synchronization rules for different countries or multiple e-commerce brands.”

Individual sites can have the same or different user experiences and templates, depending on what an e-retailer wants. “Some of our customers have hundreds of websites running on just one single installation of hybris,” Piscina says.

The hybris Multichannel Suite has modules that can support mobile applications for a variety of cell phone brands and another to support call center/customer service operations. LTS currently uses the hybris Commerce and Product Content Management applications.

Retailers can host the software, as LTS does, or they can choose to use hybris’s hosting services, a cloud-based customizable Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) option.

Working with hybris and Portaltech, LTS developed its own internal “wiki,” an in-house online training tool for marketers and merchandisers that is updated regularly.

Shapin says that going international increased sales so dramatically that LTS achieved an ROI on its investment “in about six months.” Today, LTS’s web business is about 65 percent of total sales globally – up from about 40 percent before implementing hybris Commerce – and “Our total business has trebled over three years,” Shapin says.

LTS is considering entering other markets, “but for the time being, we are focusing on optimizing” the markets in which it currently operates.
“The U.S has massive potential,” Shapin says, and “the needs of our potential customers are far greater than the size of our business. We are trying to run to make sure we are able to deliver what our customers and prospects require.”