Stationery brand Ryman recently launched its redesigned website, which is a big improvement on the previous version. 

We’ve been talking to Ryman’s E-commerce Director Andy Harding about the thinking behind the new website, and the retailers plans to expand its multichannel offering. 

Why did you decide to redesign the website? 

Did you see the old website?! The previous website was ten years old and had quite a few flaws. Product information was inadequate, the layout and navigation was weak. It was an old-school website. 

Why wait so long to redesign? 

There are a number of reasons, the complexity of the project being a bug issue. For one, we had to rewrite the product catalogue from the ground up, which was a lot of work. 

What are the major changes you have made? How did you identify the areas for improvement?

Our biggest changes are in bulk pricing, search and merchandising, a new product catalogue, layout, and merchandise categories

The requirements were based on three sources; experience and knowledge of best practice, feedback from our customers, and studying our competitors’ websites and what they are currently doing online.

How have customers responded so far?

Extremely positively. We have feedback on the website, a research panel and our analytics and on all fronts we are seeing positive results.

Our analytics is showing increases across the board, and conversion rates are up. It also benefits us when it comes to PPC. Previously our conversion rates were relatively low so we were not as competitive with PPC. Now we can use it to drive more traffic to the site and convert more so it becomes a virtuous circle. 

Is the site designed and maintained in-house?

The website was externally built by e-inbusiness and designed by Essence, and it is third party managed and maintained. We ran a beta for two and a half months, and have been testing it thoroughly. 

What percentage of Ryman’s sales are currently online?

It isn’t a lot at the moment but we believe that it could and should be as much as 20%. We have an ambitious plan and will be implementing an aggressive growth strategy to increase our online sales. 

Are there any challenges that are unique to selling stationary online? 

We have a very large and varied product catalogue, which is a challenge from a merchandising and fulfillment perspective but no more than Amazon or John Lewis. Our biggest challenge is selling to both business and consumers and designing a proposition and interface that fits the needs of both types of customer. 

Business customers are generally are happy to buy online in bulk, and we get plenty of business from corporate customers. 

For other consumers, there is a price point sensitivity, since customers need to spend enough to justify the delivery charge, though we have had people just ordering a single pen at times…

How is your e-commerce team structured?

The team of 20 people is structured around the customer value chain; marketing, conversion, operations and retention. We are heavily weighted on merchandising,product set up and operations at the moment but we plan more of a focus on retention in future.

Do you have any plans around mobile? Do you see this as an important channel for Ryman in future?

Not in the short term, we are focused on getting the website up to a level that we are happy with and then we will look at it. However, we see it as a retention solution in the future. 

What developments are planned for the site over the next 12 months?

Allowing account customers to purchase online is the key development in the short term. After that it will be about fully streamlining our multichannel offering.

Whereabouts you are at as a multichannel retailer, and are you planning a more joined-up approach, with features such as reserve and collect?

We are pretty good but there is more to come. Part of our strategy is to use our multiple channels and retail outlets to leverage over our competitors. We will be introducing click and collect options, allowing customers to buy online and collect items in store. 

One thing we have been doing for a while is to use the website to extend the range of our stores. We have 20,000+ lines on the website, while stores are restricted to what they can fit into 2,000 sq feet of retail space. 

There is a customer ordering function in store, which is promoted in various parts of the store, especially when it comes to our furniture range. We have lecterns in store which allow customers to browse through catalogues and order stock which isn’t in store. This has been going for two years and has been hugely successful. 

When we develop our collection and reserve in store service, then this will be a big USP for us to leverage. 

What are the challenges in implementing such multichannel functions?

Stock management is the biggest issue, but our stores are very consumer focused, and the business as a whole has bought in to the benefits of multichannel retail, so we need to make sure we are able to check stock levels accurate and concurrently between stores and the website.