Family-owned Alfred Dunner operated successfully as a wholesale women’s apparel brand for more than 75 years before finally opening a direct-to-consumer e-Commerce site in September 2016. Its late entry into digital sales hasn’t held Alfred Dunner back: online sales doubled in the six months between June and December 2017.
The sales totals have completely outpaced initial goals, according to Juliana Mathewson, Director of E-Commerce at Alfred Dunner.
“We buy product so far out in advance, so we had to make the call fairly quickly and make sure we have enough inventory to be able to hit these types of sales,” Mathewson said in an interview with Retail TouchPoints. “We need to adjust from what we previously thought we were going to be buying, to what we actually think we can hit. Making that call was important because we didn’t know how our move to e-Commerce would be received by the consumer. We find people that are very excited, who didn’t know we now have an online business.”
Despites its “newbie” status in e-Commerce, Alfred Dunner’s long history in wholesale gave it leverage in the women’s apparel space compared to new brands. The company has fostered brand awareness through its department store partnerships, and has brought on more consumers even as the stores cut third-party partnerships.
“We’ve picked up those customers that call us and specifically say, ‘The store around me doesn’t carry your brand anymore and I’m so excited to find you online,’” Mathewson said. “We’re trying to help cater to the customer that may not be able to shop in that similar environment that she was used to for all that time.”
E-Commerce Basics: Order Management, Shipping, Returns
Mathewson joined the business in December 2015, as the company first set out to build its direct-to-consumer presence. As the only member of the Alfred Dunner e-Commerce department at the time, Mathewson’s initial goal was to get the right order management platform in place. But she knew that there were many other factors that would need to be considered to launch a successful e-Commerce operation.
“What shipping carrier are we going to use?” Mathewson said. “What are our shipping costs going to be? What are we going to charge the customer if we’re going to charge them for shipping? What are our overall return policies going to be? There’s so many different areas and little pieces that go into building this out.”
The Alfred Dunner team ended up selecting Workarea as its first e-Commerce platform and partnered with Demac Media as the e-Commerce agency to build the site. Mathewson reached out to previous coworkers and contacted various companies to research the specific platforms before narrowing the search down to Workarea and Magento, and then finally selecting Workarea.
“We ended up using a lot of what we call the ‘out-of-the-box’ features that they offered,” Mathewson said. “We didn’t do any crazy customizations at this point. We offer recommendations — we’re very much a ‘coordinates’ type of brand. The customer very much likes to buy pieces that match together. Having those types of features are very important to us because we know it’s easy for us to tell her: ‘You’re buying this top? These are the bottoms within that collection.’”
Customer Reviews Top 2018 Priorities
The Dunner team is seeking to make more updates to its site in 2018, such as adding customer reviews. The company plans to roll out additional marketing programs and an improved desktop experience, since the bulk of its shoppers use home computers rather than mobile devices. Since the typical Alfred Dunner customer skews older, the desktop experience cannot be ignored and must be easy to navigate.
“We’re somewhat of an anomaly,” Mathewson. “I think a lot of other brands tend to trend toward the other way as they focus more on mobile, but we have an older demographic. We see that desktop is still trending stronger for us.”
But Alfred Dunner is responsively designing its site to ensure that it is mobile-optimized, with texts and banners clearly laid out to be viewed on a smaller screen.