When Molton Brown first went online in June 1999, the luxury cosmetics company gave itself 12 months to recover its investment and start making a profit. 'The investment was similar to what we would spend on a new department store concession and we applied traditional retailing benchmarks,' says sales and marketing director Charles Denton. The site was in profit in 10 weeks.
The first phase of the site, designed by Redwood New Media, offered a simple e-commerce shopping facility, dovetailed into Molton Brown's existing direct mail operation. It is taking about 70 orders a week and Denton hopes this will rise to 320 in the next 12 to 18 months. October heralds a relaunch, which will make the site more interactive, giving customers the chance to express their opinions and needs, thus fuelling future R&D.
The site builds on the company's existing business (1,200 outlets in 46 countries, including flagship stores in London, New York and Tokyo) and helps define a brand for those who perhaps come across just one product in an upmarket gym, a classy restaurant such as Anton Mosimann's or via the BA Club World Traveller label.
Molton Brown's total revenues are split 50/50 between the UK and abroad. Although 63% of orders come from the UK, overseas orders are on average higher-value. The web should generate further overseas sales. Says Denton: 'We will be concentrating on three things: a greater number of people converting to customers, greater frequency and greater value of order.'