E-FILES: Farmers looks to expand e-com offerings

When Farmers launched its website a year ago it was primarily for information. While information is still a big part of the site, customers can now shop online, and the company has plans to expand its product offerings.

www.farmers.co.nz

When Farmers launched its website a year ago it was primarily for information. While information is still a big part of the site, customers can now shop online, and the company has plans to expand its product offerings.

Farmers marketing manager Dean Cook says the company has had a lot of requests to expand its online product line.

“It’s seriously starting to take off now.” Most in demand are appliances, whiteware and electronic goods.

Cook says the expanded product range will require discussions with suppliers. Farmers never considered going online with a full product range from the beginning because of supply logistics.

“It’s easy to go out and say you’ll do that, but it’s really hard to deliver. We started on a small scale using three different supply chains to make sure we were able to meet customers’ requirements. If we can’t deliver something within 72 hours then it’s not on the site.”

The main challenges in having an online presence have been in co-ordinating the logistics and supply chain behind the scenes.

Already the site has changed how some business is done. Farmers furnished the Queenstown house of a woman living in Hong Kong after she contacted the store through the site.

“Things like that would never have been done before.”

Cook says that, long-term, the “bricks and clicks” model will benefit Farmers.

“We already have a very well-known and trusted brand in the marketplace. As we get more products on line customers are going to be happy to shop online at Farmers because they know if anything goes wrong there’s a Farmers store just down the road – it’s not a dotcom at the end of nowhere. They know the order is going to arrive and they’ve got some redress if anything should happen.”

The site has also used the site to sell additional products that aren’t available in Farmers’ stores. One success story has been the sale of computers which are only available in two Farmers stores at present, but which have sold well online.

In addition to being able to buy a range of goods and find out about things like the Farmers Beauty Club (which drives people into the store), customers can also learn about Farmers financial services such as the credit card and its new home loan services. The site can also respond to other promotions that are happening, including information on the Mitre 10 dream home television series, for which Farmers provides furniture.

One challenge has been to meet the content needs of a site that is always changing. That’s been the responsibility of Mark Gosnell, the marketing co-ordinator of e-business. He also has to deal with a wide range of departments within the organisation as e-commerce crosses many parts of the business.

There is a lot of support for the site across the company. However, it’s a learning experience for everyone, says Cook. “Everyone’s having to get their heads around it, put it that way … It is a challenge.”

The site was built by Webmasters (now part of Advantage’s e-commerce group) and is hosted by Advantage.

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