NFB upgrades e-commerce capabilities

Driven by the recent rapid growth in online sales of its video and film products to home consumers, the National Film Board of Canada is overhauling its e-commerce Web site and strategy. ...

Driven by the recent rapid growth in online sales of its video and film products to home consumers, the National Film Board of Canada is overhauling its e-commerce Web site and strategy.

The organization, whose head office is in Montreal, first used the Internet to share data with computer animation researchers and Canadian and American filmmakers then established its initial e-commerce presence in October 1999. Today, home consumers – who were previously limited in terms of what they could do and buy online at – are taking full advantage of its increasing Web capabilities.

Over the last year, sales to individual Canadian consumers on the site have grown from 10% of overall sales to 30%, and about 80% of those are brand new NFB customers, says Howard Krosnick, head of the NFB’s English Program marketing.

Little wonder then that over the next six months the company plans to further renovate its online presence by expanding the volume of its product offerings online to both home consumers and business-to-business clients (mainly educational institutions), increasing the integration of its internet store with its back-end business functions, and by extending online sales outside of Canada.

The NFB is currently lever-

aging a leading-edge, fully integrated e-business suite produced

by Mississauga-based Oracle Corporation in its bid to significantly increase business efficiencies and offer more comprehensive customer service on a global level.

Last month, the organization, which currently sells more than 90,000 theatrical and educational titles a year (mostly VHS and DVD) to customers across the world, began implementing Oracle iStore, Oracle iPayment and Oracle iMarketing™ with its existing Oracle Financials™ module to give the NFB a higher level of integrated financial, accounting and marketing control.

‘Back-end integration now lets us move forward, first into the U.S., then on a country-by-country basis, learning as we go,’ says Krosnick, adding the 1999 version of the site was not integrated with the NFB’s other back-end business functions.

‘We’ve learned from the experience of others that you shouldn’t launch e-campaigns until you can effectively deliver product online.’

The new system will allow the NFB to dramatically improve levels of customer service, including provision of searchable catalogue information on many of its 10,000 film titles, and two-minute video clips of individual films that are available for sale. Clients can now make purchases online by credit card or purchase order.

‘NFB is an extremely trusted brand name,’ Krosnick notes. ‘People buy our products sight unseen. With the recent acquisition of a new customer base, we now need to provide even more information about our products.’

The site currently operates cineRoute, a collaboration with Ottawa-based non-profit broadband tech consortium Canarie, which delivers NFB films to Canadian schools and universities using high-quality broadband technology. It is expected that service will become available to general consumers over the Web within the next few years as broadband technology evolves into the home market.

Because of issues of rights and the availability of any given film for any given market, the NFB site will be composed of six separate I-stores: English-Canadian, French-Canadian and U.S. home consumers and English-Canadian, French-Canadian and U.S. institutional consumers. The four Canadian stores are targeted to be up this summer and the two U.S. stores by the fall.

Oracle iMarketing will allow the NFB to place targeted advertising and promotions on the six different versions of its store to reach a variety of consumers, including both Canadian and American buyers, those interested in non-theatrical works, and home consumers.

‘Our marketing software allows the NFB to manage campaigns, promotions, lists [and] budgets, and market on the Web with banners on their own site and affiliate sites,’ says Tom De Rosa, CRM solution leader with Oracle. ‘For example, when a customer clicks on a banner ad for a specific product, they are led right to a shopping cart in the store.’

The NFB plans to use the new Oracle platform to initiate outgoing e-marketing campaigns before the end of the year.

‘Our traditional print-based direct marketing is very sophisticated and well-targeted, but there’s no comparison with what we’ll be able to do on the Web with customer relationship marketing’ says Krosnick. ‘Our I-marketing software gives us the flexibility to tailor messages, run promotions, launch products, build databases – controlling our marketing in a very precise, hands-on way. And it will eliminate the printing and mailing costs of traditional direct marketing.’

Krosnick says that because the NFB is not a big advertiser, it can’t spend its way into public awareness. Instead, it plans to promote its site largely via its existing marketing materials, ongoing industry events, and ‘word-of-mouse.’