Sierra Trading gets rich media

After adding rich media, including dynamic zoom, resizing, and color swatching capabilities, to its Website this year, discount apparel, home goods, and outdoor gear merchant Sierra Trading Post saw a 30% increase in year-over-year Web sales and a 25% hike in total revenue. What’s more, says creative services director Mark Richardson, the $100 million mailer’s conversion rates increased 4%-7%, and it is generating larger average order sizes and more page views.

Cheyenne, WY-based Sierra Trading Post signed on with rich-media solutions provider Scene7 in January, after Richardson noticed Scene7’s dynamic zoom feature — which allows visitors to zoom in on different areas of a product photo — on gift merchant Hammacher Schlemmer’s Website. Richardson thought the feature would benefit his own site, as many Sierra Trading Post products have difficult-to-see details.

Richardson was also interested in Scene7’s color-swatching ability, which enables site visitors to view the product in each available color. He had seen the function on the site of outdoor gear, apparel, and home decor merchant Orvis. In addition to Orvis and Hammacher Schlemmer, Novato, CA-based Scene7 counts larger merchants Office Depot, Amazon.com, and Macy’s among its clientele.

Sierra Trading Post opted for Scene7’s on-demand platform, which runs off the provider’s servers and allows users to pay a monthly subscription fee for remote access. A second option allows users to pay a one-time licensing fee and receive a copy of the software to run off their own servers.

About 80% of the products featured on Sierra Trading’s Website benefit from dynamic zoom, resizing, and color swatching. Further, Sierra Trading can remove specific colors as they sell out, resulting in higher customer satisfaction rates. Prior to working with Scene7, the cataloger would photograph a product in just one colorway and get complaints from customers who weren’t familiar with some of the alternative colors, such as “brick red” vs. “red brown.” “People just aren’t going to buy a color sight unseen,” says Richardson.

Sierra Trading would have had to add at least 10 employees proficient with PhotoShop to produce the imagery provided by the Scene7 platform, Richardson says. Now six employees handle all the imaging work for the Website.

“I never really analyzed how many extra colors and extra work we would have [if we’d photographed each product in each color]. And when I realized how much extra work there would be on a physical level just shooting every color, I realized that we wouldn’t be able to do it without Scene7,” says Richardson.

A reluctant Web marketer

Sierra Trading Post gravitated toward print catalog rather than the Internet. “We never really embraced the Web to a great extent,” Richardson says. “We were kind of afraid of it. It was like a wild animal out there.” Print catalogs are easier to project how much of a profit will result from choices, he says, whereas online products can sell out quickly.

Also, search engine optimization “makes it difficult to tackle where people are coming from,” he notes. Only 40% of Sierra Trading’s Web buyers fill out key code information. But with 60% of the company’s sales now coming via the Web, Richardson says, “why fight it?”

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