Richard Weaver is E-commerce Director at Majestic Wines, which has been growing its multichannel sales over the past couple of years. 

He will be speaking at our JUMP event next month about the company’s local approach to multichannel. 

I’ve been asking Richard about Majestic’s recent multichannel initiatives, the localisation of its website, and upcoming moves into mobile commerce. 

Can you share any numbers on Majestic’s online and multichannel sales and growth? 

Sales to the end of March 2012 were up 9.6% and now represent 10.2% of UK retail sales. The number of orders processed increased by 9.4% on last year to 175,000. The average transaction value online was £142, up from £139 last year.

What kinds of multichannel initiatives has Majestic introduced over the last year or two? 

The biggest initiative is giving each of our stores its own micro-site and social media presence. We’ve turned a regular store finder page into a space to post news, details of upcoming events, and a live feed of what’s on the tasting counter. This is hooked up to a store-specific Twitter feed.

We’ve been actively encouraging our staff to get involved in more product-focused ways, with online staff reviews and our regular Golden Grape awards.

A third multichannel initiative has been to find ways of bringing as many services available in-store to the web. Online customers can now take advantage of our free glass loan and chiller bin hire by making their requests and paying their deposit online.

How far advanced is Majestic’s multichannel strategy? 

Multichannel is intrinsic to how Majestic works. The vast majority of online orders are delivered direct from Majestic stores in Majestic vans by Majestic staff, and I encourage my team to be as channel agnostic as possible. Both our website and email marketing is personalised to the customer’s local store.

I have an unenviable job in some ways, because the quality of experience Majestic delivers at store level is really good. It’s difficult to beat the kind of personalised service our staff can offer, and of course the technology isn’t there to offer an online tasting experience, for now at least!

What have the major challenges been in implementing multichannel? 

We have around 900 staff working for Majestic, virtually all of whom know a lot about wine, and customer service. They are not all, however, experienced or in some cases even enthusiastic adopters of modern web technology.

Bringing out our expertise and personality out online, and get staff directly involved in publishing content, has required a real effort to educate and enthuse – it’s been as much about internal marketing as external.

There’s also a challenge in striking the right balance; although we’re proud to be a bricks-and-clicks retailer, we also need to remember the importance of the online channel to top line sales, and ensure we optimise for online conversion at the same time.

Are you looking to do anything around mobile in the near future? 

Yes, definitely. We have a small, fun app launching imminently that is focused around wine knowledge, and we’re working on a mobile optimised web application as well.

Our analysis is that there is considerably more mileage commercially in an m-commerce enabled site rather than a native app as a first step. HTML is platform independent and easy to achieve based on our current web platform.

We’re also looking at how we can augment our in-store POS material through mobile devices, by giving access to things like customer ratings and enhanced product data in a mobile interface.

I’m also excited by the opportunities for local content on mobile, since Smartphone’s are location-aware. We’ve run some trials using channels such as Foursquare to support new stores.

I was impressed by the localisation of some areas of the website – how has this worked out so far? 

In many ways better than expected. I had roughly expected about a third of our stores to do a great job, a third to do the bare minimum, and a third to be a struggle, but in reality I’d say we’re performing much better than expected.

As ever with our staff they find ways to surprise me, and some of the smart local marketing they have delivered through their pages and Twitter feeds have been really pleasing.

There have been some specific examples where having a local presence online has really helped, such as last December where stores could use their web page to keep customers up-to-date on how their delivery schedules were faring given the snow we had to endure.

How did you approach staff training and guidelines on social media use? 

In the new media world we assume 99.9% of people use and understand social media, but the hit rate in the real world is not quite like that, and in many of our stores we had staff with little or no web experience at all.

We’ve taken the approach of introducing our ideas gradually, and in a staggered way. Individual stores, with web-savvy staff working in them, can blaze a trail. For example, we trialled a local Twitter feed for a year with our Stratford-upon-Avon store year before committing to open this up nationally. 

For the less experienced, we’re trying to educate and inspire through showcasing best practice. In our company weekly memo we salute an individual store doing a good job with their page, and offer advice on how to do the same.

We also achieve a staggered approach with our tooling. Our internal Twitter client can automate the creation of some tweets, and some Twitter features are only exposed to stores where the staff that are ready, with a more basic, SMS-like client offered where it is more appropriate. 

How important is having your own delivery network in implementing multichannel strategies? 

It’s really important, because it makes multichannel a fundamental requirement of our operation. This certainly poses challenges, such as how we can expand the delivery options we offer customers, but is what sets Majestic’s online service apart from our competitors.

What will you be speaking about at JUMP? 

I’m going to focus on our experience with local store pages and social media feeds, and staff involvement in the website – what we’ve done, why we did it, how we did it, and what’s worked – and a little bit on what hasn’t.