PHOENIX — As a way to help its retail members compete in the growing world of e-commerce, Nationwide Marketing Group unveiled what it calls a “redefined furniture-centric shopping experience,” at its PrimeTime event here this week.
The new project information management system will improve the quality and consistency of vendor data to help member retailers deliver a consistent, seamless experience for consumers shopping on their sites.
“Right now, we’re up to around 30 brands that we’ve either gathered or enhanced in 2021, and we’ll continue to add more throughout 2022,” said Jennifer Danko, senior vice president of omnichannel technology.
While noting that retailers have a mix of product information from myriad vendors Nationwide’s initial focus for the new program has been on the brands most utilized across the group’s membership. This includes such information as pricing data, related items, product options and the ability to create different configurations.
“We manage all of it for them, so all they have to do is sign up and set their pricing formulas,” Danko said.
She explained that the system also provides a benefit to vendors by delivering a superior customer experience and a better representation of the brand. “We’re not just pulling the data but making sure it’s represented in a manner that best suits them in the way it gets to the end consumer,” she said.
The data is compiled and hosted by Retailer Web Services, a Nationwide company. RWS also builds and manages websites for members if they choose. For those who prefer to manage their own website, RWS can make a data feed available on a subscription basis.
“We create the full experience with that (data), so it’s always our preference to house the website,” said RWS CEO Genna Majuta. “It’s a big undertaking. It’s hundreds of thousands of lines of data, so for the retailer it’s easier to work with RWS.”
For new RWS subscribers, Majuta said a site with all the data can be up and running in about 30 days, while existing customers will get the benefits as they go live. “As we roll out new features and improve the system that’s not something we’re going to charge for, that will be automatic.”
Mike Derro, Nationwide’s vice president of furniture and bedding explained that the goal of the new system is to free retailers to focus on areas of their business where they can make the most difference and where they have the most expertise.
“We represent independent retailers. The majority are doing everything in their organization and managing websites are not their area of expertise,” said Derro. “The consumer is shopping in a different way right now and we want to make that experience easy and best for the consumer.”
Majuta said the creation of the platform was intended to give furniture shoppers an onsite experience that compares favorably with what they would find on any of their favorite shopping sites. “Our goal was to make it intuitive. We spent a lot of time in market research, looking at leading e-com sites, talking to consumers and to retailers.”
The platform will allow consumers to build wish lists, view color options with images that will change to match their color selection, select additional items and allow them to navigate more easily. If manufacturers have 3D imagery that also can be made available and future enhancements are in the works including the use of AR/VR to further enhance the shopping experience. Majuta noted that as manufacturer data updates, RWS will get it in real time and all sites are equipped with Google Analytics so retailers can track performance and adjust as needed.
“That’s one of the benefits of being on a platform like RWS. We have our development team and designers working to figure out what’s the most effective and streamlined way to get that conversion,” she said. “Our sites are constantly evolving to account for changes in consumer behavior to get to that most effective spot possible.”
Danko said it is all about creating the most user-friendly approach because that creates the simplest path to converting visits to sales. “We find when an experience is convenient, customers are much more likely to check it out and talk about with friends and family,” Danko said. “We’re trying to create the best and most convenient experience.”
That’s as true for retailers as it is for consumers. She noted that RWS serves as a full marketing solution for most of Nationwide’s retailers, whether that’s providing chat services on the site, managing e-mail marketing, lead generation, quote building tools or more.
“It’s a full comprehensive suite of web and digital tools that are available, so they don’t have to go out and find any third parties to do this.”
She noted that one of the most important tools in today’s shopping environment inventory integration so customers can see what’s products are available at what stores. “We know the top three drivers are price, availability and delivery. How much is it, do you have it, and when can I get it?”
Now retailers will have the answer to all three and can serve it up in a way that’s better coordinated, more cohesive and more convenient, she noted.