National Pen Co., a distributor of pens and other promotional products like coffee mugs and key chains etched with its clients’ names, is out to perfect its strategy of selling globally but marketing locally, CEO Dave Thompson says.
And it’s doing that with a new e-commerce software platform that lets National Pen’s merchandising and marketing managers personalize content according to customers’ interests on its e-commerce sites and in online marketing programs, he adds.
National Pen manufactures many of its products as well as distributes them to customers in more than 20 countries. Many of its customers are local businesses, including plumbers, carpenters, attorneys and restaurateurs. For years, it has marketed to most of its customers through direct-mail marketing campaigns, sending prospects sample items accompanied by direct-mail materials written in their local language for placing orders via telephone. When placing orders through one of National Pen’s two contact centers, foreign customers would often be matched with a sales rep fluent in the customer’s local language. “We’re a global business that acts in a very localized manner, no matter where the customer may be,” Thompson says.
But to take National Pen to a new level of growth, the company is working to better connect its network of more than 20 e-commerce sites to customers through web content personalized to their interests. The company’s 23 e-commerce sites, covering several countries in Europe, plus Australia, New Zealand and Japan, are all linked from Pens.com.
Since replacing its home-grown e-commerce software in 2011 with Oracle Corp.’s Oracle Commerce software, National Pen has grown e-commerce sales by about 20% per year, Thompson says. As a result, e-commerce now accounts for 20% of total revenue, or $54 million out of $270 million this year, he notes.
One nice surprise that accompanied that growth, he adds, is that online sales have not cannibalized direct-mail sales as he and his managers had feared. “We found that the vast majority who come to our e-commerce sites are outside of our direct-mail audience,” Thompson says. The company adds that, compared with direct-mail customers, e-commerce customers on average place larger orders by monetary value and are more likely to become repeat buyers.
Melissa Naraval, National Pen’s director of e-commerce for North America, attributes the company’s strong e-commerce sales to the company’s ability to personalize content on its e-commerce sites and in marketing campaigns based on customers’ known interests. National Pen uses the Endeca site search and navigation technology built into the Oracle Commerce platform, for example, to customize search results based on a customer’s known interests from prior online buying sessions. It also Oracle’s Responsys email marketing program to send personalized marketing messages.
Going forward, Naraval and Thompson say they expect conversion rates and sales through e-commerce to grow at a faster rate as National Pen takes advantage of a new version of Oracle Commerce it has begun rolling out. Oracle Commerce version 10.2 is now running National Pen’s e-commerce sites for the U.S. and Canada, and will be deployed within a year to all 23 e-commerce sites National Pen has worldwide. The new platform, which National Pen is deploying with web development firm Aaxis Commerce, will make it easier to maintain product content in a single online catalog while managing product displays and other web content locally for each site according to localized demand, Thompson says. At the same time, each e-commerce site will have its own web address, making each site itself appear even more localized, he adds. Today, all the URLs for European sites, for example, start with PensEurope.com, followed by a country code; the site for Norway is PensEurope.com/no.
The new version of Oracle Commerce also brings National Pen responsive web design, which makes web content properly fit the screen of the mobile or desktop device an online buyer is using. In addition to helping to increase the number of customers accessing National Pen via mobile devices, this will enable National Pen to place ads with online advertising networks and have them render properly on mobile devices, Navaral says.
Oracle is listed as a provider e-commerce software by 75 companies in among the Internet Retailer Top 1000, which ranks companies on the annual web sales.
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