Founded more than a century ago, manufacturer Red Wing Shoe Co. Inc. is stepping up its game in the business of selling work boots and related items to both businesses and consumers. And at every step of the way, it’s building out its strategy with upgraded applications of internet technology.
In the past year it launched its first website where customers can purchase products, RedWingShoes.com. That e-commerce site sells heavy-duty work boots to individual workers as well as hiking boots and other footwear to consumers. And on the same Intershop Commerce e-commerce software platform from Intershop Communications AG it is also building a network of microsites that each provide a customized selection of products at contracted pricing to industrial customers.
Red Wing has already developed more than 20 of these microsites for companies like Schlumberger Limited, a provider of equipment to the oil and gas industry whose employees wear Red Wing work boots and apparel on oil rigs and other industrial job sites. The microsites are typically used by Red Wing’s clients’ employees and purchasing managers to purchase approved work boots and customized uniforms. That can include fire-resistant garments embroidered with workers’ names and badges that indicate their level of certification for accessing particular areas of job sites.
“For us to be competitive, we need to provide an online channel,” says Marc Kermisch, Red Wing’s vice president and chief information officer. Red Wing Shoe is privately held and doesn’t report revenue figures, but Kermisch notes that it does 60% of its sales to businesses through sales reps and e-commerce, the rest to consumers through RedWingShoes.com and retail stores. He adds that while overall e-commerce sales account for only about 25% of total sales, they’re on pace to double this year over last year.
Kermisch says the microsites are proving to be popular with client companies that want to control spending while also providing employees with a consumer-like e-commerce site to purchase what they need to do their jobs. “Microsites are an important contribution to our B2B sales, and we’ll continue to launch about half a dozen microsites a year,” he says. “Purchasing managers, safety managers and others all want to control procurement—the pricing, product mix, and access by authorized employees. They want to know, ‘Are my employees adhering to our policy?’”
Red Wing customizes each microsite for clients, including the ability to use credit cards and commercial cards to make purchases. It also integrates each site with a client’s spend-management software, which enables clients to produce reports on what their employees have purchased and whether they’re staying within approved budgets.
Red Wing is also planning to develop a general B2B e-commerce site open to any businesses that want to purchase its industrial work boots and other products.
While still satisfied with the Intershop Commerce platform, Red Wing is also considering other e-commerce software as it develops its new B2B site as well as additional microsites, Kermisch says.
It’s also in the middle of rolling out new Internet-based Micros point-of-sale software from Oracle Corp. for its 500 retail stores, including company-owned sites and franchise locations. Red Wing also sells its products through some 4,000 stores operated by other companies, including sporting goods retailers Gander Mountain, Bass Pro Shops and Cabela’s.
To better manage product assortments and sales through major retailers, Red Wing recently began using an internet-based analytics tool from supply chain technology company SPS Commerce Inc. For now, Red Wing is using the tool to access information on how its Irish Setter line of hunting boots are selling in several retail chains, helping it to better plan product assortments by store and region, Kermisch says. Red Wing also uses cloud-based EDI software from SPS Commerce to manage the transfer of purchase orders, invoices and other documents with major retail chains.
As Red Wing continues to build out its internet infrastructure for both online and store sales—including the web-based point-of-sale system in its stores—it will continue to improve how it compiles, analyzes and acts on cross-channel customer activity, sales and inventory data, Kermisch says. He says the company aims to better personalize its interactions with customers based on their known interests, improve how it manages inventory and to better plan product assortments in both online and offline, Kermisch says.
“This is absolutely exciting for us to become a true omnichannel company,” he says.
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