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General Pants Co. looks to grow cross-border sales

Paula Mitchell, general manager of e-commerce at General Pants Co., talks about tapping into cross-border e-commerce opportunities, prioritising digital projects and marketing to millennials.

Sydney-based retailer General Pants Co. has updated its website to make it easier for shoppers outside of Australia to buy its products online. The company’s new international e-commerce offering comes during a period of rapid growth in cross-border online sales, with Forrester predicting the market to reach $424 billion by 2021.

“We always wanted to deliver our products globally but it was really important to ensure a great customer experience could go with it,” Paula Mitchell, general manager of e-commerce at General Pants Co. told Internet Retailing. To do so, the company partnered with e-commerce solution provider Pitney Bowes, which recently made its cross-border retail solution available in Australia.

General Pants Co. is now able to localise the language and currency it displays, provide customers with the fully-landed cost of their orders, including tax and duty, and manage each order through customs. The website also supports easy payment and shipping options through the Pitney Bowes solution.

The international-friendly features have been available for three weeks. Mitchell said it’s too soon to measure whether they have had an impact on sales, as the retailer decided not to launch any major marketing campaigns, but rather is taking a “test and learn” approach to ramping up its cross-border efforts. “We’re looking to do some marketing activities in the lead up to Christmas,” Mitchell said.

Currently, around 10 per cent of General Pants Co.’s online sales are made in international locations, with the majority coming from the US and New Zealand. While the e-commerce offering is a global proposition, Mitchell said the retailer will be paying particular attention to online sales in the US market, where it recently opened its first bricks and mortar store outside of Australia.

“We were already shipping quite a number of orders of key brands across to the US and that told us there was an appetite for our product,” Mitchell said. “The fact that we had this amount of interest without a great customer shipping experience made us wonder what would happen if we improved the experience.”

In addition to its online efforts, the multi-brand retailer is looking to roll out a number of omnichannel projects in Australia over the coming months. Click and collect is high on Mitchell’s priority list, as well as improving the domestic delivery proposition.

“We recognise the value of providing customers with choice and flexibility to access our products, and both of these projects are going to be key ways for us to deliver that flexibility over the next 12 months,” Mitchell said.

Flexibility for the customer, however, should not come at a cost to the retailer’s efficiency. “We want to avoid shipping an item from one store to another before the customer comes in to pick it up,” Mitchell said about the company’s upcoming click and collect initiative.

This means ensuring the website reflects instore inventory in real time. “We do regular inventory updates throughout the day, but it’s not currently in real time,” Mitchell said. “We need to increase the frequency of how often our systems are talking to each other, so that the website decreases the availability of a unit after an instore sale in as close to real time as possible.”

This is just the latest in a string of big investments General Pants Co. has made in its digital customer experience. The retailer has also redesigned its website to be mobile first, a decision Mitchell described as crucial in light of the company’s youthful demographic.

“Our customer is highly mobile and delivering a seamless experience on any device was crucial,” Mitchell said. The redesign has resulted in a 100 per cent increase in mobile conversions and positive feedback from customers, according to Mitchell.

The mobile-first strategy reflects the retailer’s aim to be relevant to its audience. “The thing we always talk about [at General Pants Co.] is ensuring relevance. Millennials have so many messages being pushed to them across different channels. How do you stand out from the noise? We try to be relevant where can.”

Mitchell pointed to the brand’s social media presence as a prime example. “We try to have a mix of content, whether from a brand ambassador or user generated content. It should be something [millennials] want to read and consume.”

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