Carving a niche in e-commerce

17 Jan 2003

If at first you don’t succeed, try again. For Newbridge Cutlery, after 60 years of manufacturing everything from saws to knives and forks and exotic silverware, its first foray into e-commerce was an acknowledged failure.

Marketing director Phil Donnelly says: “Our previous efforts were very basic, with a minimum range of products, very few resources invested in it and no long-term strategy to speak of.”

Just like the internet, Newbridge Cutlery has been evolving and has decided to develop upon its proud legacy of crafting metallic goods that adorn dining rooms the length and breadth of the country to move into the more exotic and opulent markets of jewellery and fashionable glassware. To reinforce these moves, Newbridge Cutlery recruited the efforts of fashion designer Paul Costelloe to design high-quality crystal products and tableware, as well as employing a range of other designers to design jewellery, timepieces and giftware to be manufactured by the firm’s 75 craftworkers.

As the firm moved into these new fields of expertise, the reality of reinforcing its marketing efforts through another thrust into the world of the internet meant a new web strategy and clearly, a new website. The company called on the efforts of Dublin-based design firm Clearscape and after a project that spanned half a year, Newbridge Cutlery unveiled its sleek new-look, multi-currency website in November, just in time for the Christmas market, aimed at strengthening Newbridge’s brand domestically and overseas.

Clearscape is a three year-old consultancy that has engaged in a variety of projects for bluechip Irish firms, including Electrolux, Farrell Grant Sparks, Minmet plc, Nissan and Deloitte & Touche. The company was recently shortlisted in the design category for the forthcoming O2-sponsored National Digital Media Awards that will take place next week in Dublin.

Clearscape’s Conor Stanley explains: “We had a wide range of priorities. From a design perspective we wanted to put in place the best possible practices online and make the site as easy as possible to buy from as well as also prompting visitors to go to the various retailers that sell Newbridge Cutlery products. There are some 1,000 dealers throughout Ireland and overseas to consider. The sheer range of products and the scale of the site demanded a six-month development time.”

The site itself is designed to present Newbridge’s products in a stylish and uncluttered fashion to reflect the luxury of the product range and to do so Clearscape developed the site to provide a snapshot of all the key products with elements of Flash technology embedded to aid navigation.

“Because the original site was static and did very little for the Newbridge brand, and because the new site had to have a dual strategy of selling online and driving customers to dealers, a stylish, yet easy-to-use interface had to be developed,” Stanley says. Clearscape went on to develop a number of innovative features for the Newbridge site, such as a search and gift chooser facility, an ability to request a brochure or locate a stockist and ultimately, the ability to purchase a product within a few clicks. “Because the motive is primarily brand development than simply e-commerce, the strategy is to underpin the site with a number of marketing and promotion initiatives aimed at driving traffic,” he adds.

According to Phil Donnelly, marketing director of Newbridge Cutlery, the next phase of development for Newbridge Cutlery’s e-commerce strategy will culminate in the creation of an enterprise resource planning- based (ERP) ordering system that will enable stockists and dealers to order products through the site. “The plan is to integrate the site’s content management system with the financial and ERP systems in use at Newbridge Cutlery,” Conor Stanley says.

Donnelly explains: “Because this time we are putting more and more resources behind our online effort, we have personnel who will manage the queries coming in. But going forward, we are developing a business-to-business aspect to the site that will allow us to deal with suppliers and retailers as part of our long-term strategy. For a company of this size, we have made a considerable investment in this strategy.

“We are just getting ready to launch a series of new categories onto the site with new accoutrements for the kitchen as well as opulent glassware and jewellery. Our network of retailers have welcomed our web strategy, but it is still early days before we can gauge the full reaction. Our dealers overseas have been very receptive because they can use it as a reference site,” Donnelly says.

On the success so far, she concludes: “This is no mere token effort for us. Our objective is brand development and strengthening our efforts to move into newer markets. So far as an information tool, it has resulted in the capture of a lot of data and queries from existing and potential customers, predominantly domestic, but increasingly in overseas markets like the UK and US.” For Newbridge Cutlery, the hope is that it’s second time lucky for its e-commerce strategy.

Pictured: Managing director, Newbridge Cutlery, William Doyle and marketing director Phil Donnelly in the Newbridge Silverware rooms