Wedgwood Goes Direct to Customers

Risking the anger of some of its retail distributors, Waterford Wedgwood has launched an e-commerce site offering Wedgwood china and crystal directly to consumers for the first time.

The site was designed and will be maintained by Ann Arbor, MI-based e-commerce site developer Fry.

WedgwoodUSA.com gives consumers direct access to all of Wedgwood’s brands, including its well-known blue-and-white Jasperware and its newest collections from Vera Wang, Emeril Lagasse, and Jasper Conran.

Though the topic of channel conflict comes up any time a manufacturer begins selling directly to consumers, Jennifer Korch, director of Internet marketing for Waterford Wedgwood USA, says the company’s experience selling Waterford crystal directly to consumers online for three years indicates that retailer cannibalization should not be an issue with WedgwoodUSA.com.

“We see a huge percentage of people who go to the store locator after they’ve looked at 15-plus pages of product information [at Waterford.com],” Korch says. “That tells me they’ve made a decision and want to go buy it somewhere. On the Waterford site, we get considerably more people who use the store locator than purchase directly online.”

Korch adds, “Bridal is a huge market for us. We don’t have a bridal registry, right now so any bride who comes to our site is going to convert offline.”

What’s more, WedgwoodUSA doesn’t compete with its resellers on price, one of the top motivators for consumers who shop online, Korch says. She believes that unlike retail-site visitors, most consumers who visit manufacturers’ sites have already decided they’re going to buy from a retailer and are on the manufacturers’ site simply for information.

“What’s great about the site from a manufacturer’s perspective is we control the merchandising, the look and feel of the branding and messaging, which is something we can’t do in retail stores,” Korch says.

Janita Gaulzetti, director of marketing for Fry, says that these days, more manufacturers are finding that they can sell directly to consumers online and support their retail representatives at the same time.

“Many manufacturers are discovering that their Websites give them tools they didn’t realize they had to speak directly to customers and manage and maintain customer loyalty and improve customer service,” Gaulzetti says. “Unlike a retailer that has limited shelf space, manufacturers can showcase their full product line. Also, we know that people do a lot of research online before they order online or get to a store, and consumers report that they really trust product information that they get at manufacturers’ sites because it’s extensive and it covers their full product line.”

Orders to WedgwoodUSA.com will be fulfilled by Waterford’s fulfillment center in Wall, NJ, says Korch.

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