How Dooney & Bourke took its e-commerce from 2004 to 2015

David Burbine

Dooney & Bourke was running on a bare-bones e-commerce platform installed more than a decade ago. Saddled with outdated systems, the fashion brand and retailer sorely needed to relaunch its website and create a more powerful online presence.

To that end, Dooney & Bourke adopted a cloud solution from Demandware to create a more compelling experience for online shoppers that also served the luxury brand's 50 stores and 150 boutiques.

The initiative required an entirely new platform because the previous incarnation had been a stripped-down companion to a back-end fulfillment solution installed in 2004. It also required a commitment stretching all the way up the chain of command. Getting that kind of C-suite approval is something that many retailers struggle with as IT, stores, marketing, and merchandising departments vie for limited expansion funds.

The results were immediate: sales climbed 29 percent, conversion rates jumped 33 percent and engagement on mobile devices improved by triple digits, according to David Burbine, director of e-commerce, Dooney & Bourke.

FierceRetail: What was the state of Dooney & Bourke's website before you implemented the new system? What needed to be updated?

David Burbine: We had something that we launched in 2004 that we lost support on in 2008. When you think in terms of 2004 to 2014 when we relaunched with Demandware, it's certainly a lifetime in the e-commerce space. The writing was on the wall for years that we needed to upgrade, and the acquisition of a new executive VP (Rico Trevino) on our end and his new set of eyes looking at the platform and what we were dealing with made it easier for us to sell it up the ladder than it had been in the past. It wasn't that we hadn't innovated since 2004. We tried to partner with various third-party vendors for search, color change, some SEO, but [this] was really long overdue.

We've definitely been able to up our game from a SEO standpoint. There are dynamic promotions we can run and product placement is definitely a lot easier. The whole branded lookbook and creative assets—it's night and day compared to the old site. The old site was kind of bare bones and really just transactional for the most part. It was totally lacking from a lifestyle and brand experience.

We've made an effort to do what we did years ago with our catalogs, where we created a lifestyle and a journey for the customer—[now on] the website with the ease of use of the platform. We've kind of taken what our catalogs were in the past, which was a coffee table book and experience for the brand, and translated that onto the e-commerce space. It's important to us to be a transactional e-commerce site, but to also set the tone for the brand and the lifestyle. Now we're able to do a lot more marketing and have our eyes more on the customer experience than we ever have in the past.

FierceRetail: You're both a brand and a retailer in your own right. You have standalone stores, 25 of them, and there are 150 Dooney & Bourke boutiques as well as products at other retailers. How do you balance your own proprietary goals as a stand-alone retailer and a brand with those of your partners, who are also retailers?

David Burbine: It's an interesting balance because we're always sensitive to our relationships when it comes to our wholesale customers, whether it's Macys, QVC or Zappos [etc.]. But the kind of mantra we've been living by now is "The rising tide raises all ships." So if we up our game in the e-commerce space, it's only going to help our wholesale partners. We have more creative assets at our fingertips [now] to kind of make the brand more customer-friendly. We were really limited in the past with just a bare-bones customer experience. When we looked at Demandware and updating the site, it's sad to say, but it was really about leveling the playing field for us with our competitors. You could easily put us side by side in the past with Coach, Kate Spade or Tory Burch's website. The experience was extremely poor and lacking on our end, so we're trying to not only help our own direct brick-and-mortar stores and our e-commerce store, but we hope that the brand experience helps our wholesale partners in the same way.

FierceRetail: Would you be willing to share any results that you've been able to measure?

David Burbine: For Q4 2014 versus Q4 2013, we saw a 29 percent increase in global sales. We saw a 33 percent increase in the overall conversion rate. That conversion rate was even higher through tablet. What our measurements show is a 171 percent increase in tablet conversion rates and a 41 percent increase in mobile (smartphone) conversion rates.

Sessions were up pretty big, too, with a 34 percent increase in user sessions Q4 (2014) versus Q4 (2013). I think that was really due to the fact that our old system was really an internal system, and now we're on a cloud-based system. Scalability is not an issue, so you can open up the floodgates, and where, in the past, we might be biting our nails wondering if we could sustain the traffic, now we're welcoming it with open arms.

FierceRetail: What do you have planned for your next move? Are there more features you'd like to implement?

David Burbine: Work is never done, I guess. Last year the goal was to update the site and have an eye on conversion. Now we want to kinda set our sights on acquisition. We have a very loyal customer base and our research shows there are a lot of repeat visits. Now we want to go out there and acquire new customers, so we definitely want to make improvements in the social space with better paid search marketing and social marketing. We have eyes on getting a loyalty program off the ground. We've had different versions of it, but we want to have a consistent, seamless loyalty program across all of our direct channels.

We obviously love being on the new platform. It has made it possible to take a little bit of time and talk to you. In the past, we were always in the weeds, so I think we were spending too much time rolling up our sleeves with the old platform, and now it's kind of freed us up to do more of what we should be doing, and that's improving the customer experience.

An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that Dooney & Bourke adopted an on-premise solution from Demandware. The solution was in fact, cloud-based. The story has been updated to reflect the correct information.