Traditional retailers can thrive in online world

The honeymoon's over. So it appears, anyway, for the countless upstart "e-tailers" that have staked out their territory in the dot-com realm over the past several years. Recent studies have warned of an impending shake-out that will see many online retailers...

The honeymoon’s over. So it appears, anyway, for the countless upstart "e-tailers" that have staked out their territory in the dot-com realm over the past several years. Recent studies have warned of an impending shake-out that will see many online retailers close their virtual doors for good. And April’s technology-stock meltdown on Wall Street didn’t exactly bode well for the future of this particular business.

Still, it’s not quite a total doomsday scenario. Internet retail still has a promising future, experts say – but its standard-bearers, ironically, may turn out to be established players from the good old-fashioned bricks-and-mortar retail world.

"I think the big hype for the first wave of online e-tailers is over," says Beat Richert, principal of Montreal-based 2B Interactive Communication Marketing.

Web-based retail operations like CDNow may enjoy the advantage of having got there first, he says, but the average consumer is still loyal to traditional retail brands. So those real-world retailers with a foothold in the dot-com realm now should be well-positioned to thrive in the future.

Traditional retailers are going to win on the Web, affirms Roman Bodnarchuk, president and CEO of Toronto-based N5R – but only if they get their act together now.

Even if they’re not ready to begin selling product online, Bodnarchuk says, they should be laying the groundwork for e-commerce by building their databases and establishing the means to communicate with customers via e-mail. Some U.S. retailers, he notes, have begun asking shoppers in-store to provide e-mail addresses, with precisely this objective in mind.

The challenge for bricks-and-mortar retailers is to figure out just how to use the Web most effectively, says Doug Keeley, president of Toronto-based ICE Integrated Communications & Entertainment. The secret, he argues, is to offer something of value that gives users a reason to keep coming back.

Transition to the Web can prove a slow and difficult process, says Cara Vogl, marketing manager with Mont Royal, Que.-based Le Chateau, which is currently in the midst of efforts to leverage its well-established brand online. The popular clothing retailer launched its Web site last June, and has recently rolled out a revamped version (www.lechateau.ca).

"You want to catch up to what everyone else is doing – but if you go too quickly, you’re putting yourself in a potentially very dangerous position," she says. "So we’re taking baby steps."

Rushing to establish an e-commerce capability isn’t necessarily the way to go, adds Darrell Heaps, partner with Nkaos, the Toronto-based Web developer responsible for the Le Chateau site.

Rather, he argues, the key to long-term success is to create a rich user experience, through a focus on building "communities" online.

The original Le Chateau site, for example, succeeded in attracting 11,000 users per month, despite the fact that it sold no merchandise. What it did have to offer was a variety of community-building features, including message boards and random mini-surveys designed to provide entertainment value while helping the retailer collect user data.

While not necessarily product-oriented, Heaps says, features like these go a long way toward adding what Web developers call "sticky value" to a site – that is, the ability to attract and hold users.

"The amount of return traffic and brand loyalty that’s being built is massive," he says.

The new Le Chateau site will be more product-oriented, to help the retailer begin to ease into e-commerce. Having devoted effort up front to building community, Le Chateau now believes it has a large audience primed and ready to purchase its products online.

"As we get ready to launch e-commerce capability…what we’ll be doing is deploying it to a captive audience," says Heaps. "The audience is essentially waiting to be sold to."

Also in this report:

- Harry gets hip with casual campaign: Upscale retailer makes a play for younger, "new economy" business executives p.24

- POP progress slow but sure: With the promise of credible data, point-of-purchase is poised to prove its worth as a medium p.25

- Interactive merchandising on the rise: Just one of several trends apparent at GlobalShop 2000 show in Chicago p.25

- North West Co. nurtures roots: Retailer supports local activities in remote communities throughout the north p.27

Zulu grows its team and makes a slate of promotions

A director of interactive production for Zulubot is among dozens of new faces and roles at the agency, in response to recent wins.
Zulu Alpha Kilo_New Zuligans

Toronto indie shop Zulu Alpha Kilo had made several new hires and promotions on the heels of new business and also organic growth from existing clients.

Zulu could not officially announce the account wins at this time.

However, it can report that Ece Inan, most recently at Toronto design and tech shop Array of Stars, has been named the agency’s new director of interactive production for Zulubot, the agency’s production arm. In the new role, Inan will lead AR, VR, voice and other digital innovation projects.

Also on the production side, James Graham, who has spent the last 17 years with Grip, has joined the agency as its studio director.

Zulu has also made numerous additions on the client services side, led by Michael Brathwaite, also from Grip, as account director.

It’s also announced a spate of new account supervisors, including Hayley Blackmore (from G Adventures), Risa Kastelic (from BT/A), Kara Oddi (also from BT/A), Emily Anzarouth (also from Grip), Chris Rosario (from FCB/Six) and Sarah Shiff (from Rethink).

In addition to the new hires (pictured above), the agency has also announced several promotions: Alyssa Guttman moves from account director to group account director, while Nina Bhayana, Michelle Fournier, Jenn Gaidola-Sobral and Erin McManus have all been promoted to account director, and Haley Holm to account supervisor. On the strategy team, strategists Carly Miller and Spencer MacEachern have both been promoted to strategy director, while Shaunagh Farrelly, who has been with Zulu for two years in a client service role, moves into a new role as a digital strategist.

In December, the shop also announced that Stephanie Yung would be returning to the agency after a stint in New York as its head of design. Recent wins the agency has been able to announce including work as AOR for the Ottawa Senators, as well as a new arrangement with existing client Consonant Skincare, setting up an in-house team to support growth after taking an equity stake in the company.

Zulu president Mike Sutton says it’s wonderful, in a new year, to welcome new faces and energy to the team and says the agency is fortunate to have had so many people across the agency step up to support its clients.

“Simply put, they were rock stars, and the promotions are very well deserved,” Sutton says.