Future Shop: A case study

One Canadian e-tailer isn't leaving anything to chance this holiday season....

One Canadian e-tailer isn’t leaving anything to chance this holiday season.

Future Shop, identified by retail analysts (see story, page one) as a prime candidate to share in this year’s online holiday sales bounty, is pouring major resources into making sure its site (www.futureshop.ca) is in tip-top shape for hordes of holiday shoppers.

‘We’re continuously ramping up our Web site. But definitely there’s been a heavy concentration in preparation for the holiday season,’ says Lori De Cou, manager of corporate communications for Future Shop. While the company does not reveal its sales figures, De Cou says it’s anticipating 20 times the online sales volume it generated last December.

The Vancouver-based retailer sells consumer home electronics, appliances, computer hardware and software, and – more recently – DVDs, video games and CDs. In all, 80% of Future Shop’s in-store product offerings are available online, she says, and that figure is climbing every day.

The retailer is also putting more emphasis of late on marketing its online incarnation. Over the last six months, De Cou says the site URL has been integrated into all of the company’s advertising materials, including TV spots and flyers.

Earlier this month, Future Shop rolled out a commercial designed specifically to brand the Web site and drive holiday shoppers to it with the promise of over 10,000 gift ideas. The ad will run on national networks, including MuchMusic, from now until the first week of December.

‘We feel good about going into this holiday season having put major resources into it,’ says De Cou.

Since August, the retailer has invested over $1 million in back-end preparation, including ramping up its ordering and fulfillment systems, improving navigation and adding new tools to the site.

For starters, she says, it has established some ‘conservative’ cut-off dates for online holiday ordering -Dec. 13 for guaranteed ground delivery and Dec. 17 for guaranteed air delivery before Christmas.

‘We weren’t as conscious of the potential [fulfillment] problems last year,’ she says. ‘This year, we’re very conscious of ensuring that we are able to deliver product to our consumers [on time].’

Future Shop’s revamped site launched Nov. 16 with several holiday-centric tools, including a Christmas Wish mechanism – consumers can generate a Dear Santa letter and e-mail it to their personal St. Nick – and an online Holiday Guide. The latter groups merchandise in various price categories – under $50, under $100 – and suggests items appropriate for kids, music lovers, gamers and sports enthusiasts.

Future Shop also changed its online return policy – consumers can return items to any of its 88 bricks-and-mortar superstores, rather than ship it back – and offers free delivery on any purchase over $50.

To promote the site, Future Shop is mounting ‘The Ultimate Online Concert Giveaway,’ offering winners the chance to fly anywhere in North America to see a concert of their choice. De Cou says contests such as this have enabled the site to amass over 100,000 registered users 19-34.

In 1999, Future Shop’s e-commerce business accounted for 1-2% of its overall sales. BJ