Lancaster triggers the next stage with online sales


(Published in The Produktkulturmagazin issue 3 2016)

George Wurz and Dr. Eugène Frezzati are names that will ring a bell with only a few. However, Lancaster, the company they founded, is known around the world. The two men met at random in Monaco in 1946 and soon realised they both dreamt of a company developing and marketing innovative luxury toiletries. Back then, this was nothing short of a revolution; seventy years later another one has sparked-off: its digital distribution delivered by Akeneo. 

Dr. Frezzati had already worked as a chemist for some renowned American cosmetics brands, Dorothy Gray among others, and thus brought the expertise to develop toiletries, whereas Wurz would bring in his experience as an entrepreneur. The name for their company reflected emotions right after the Second World War: a tribute to the British heavy bomber that in 1940 had made it possible for Wurz to escape the Nazi-occupied city in western France he lived in. For him, the name embodied freedom, hope and rebirth. Success would not wait long. 

Today, Lancaster is the epitome of French luxury brands, employing 1,500 people all over the world. They are all in some way or another working at the development of various elixirs, fluids, creams, powders and gels that all need to be matched to different types of skins. The digital distribution strategy of the company has become similarly devoted and innovative. Last year, Lancaster managed to organise a network of 800 distribution partners to its boutiques and its two online stores for Europe and North America, each having their own product portfolio. There were also different platforms to take into account: Criteo and Google Shopping, each channel handling different export information. This somewhat maverick multi-channel structure was maintained completely manually as was the laborious and time-consuming task of merging. Already groaning employees then had to update all product information. 

The company thus formulated two main goals leading its digital turnaround. Preparing and presenting its online product information required optimisation. One important focus point was speed, directly translating to competitiveness. The other was reliable information among its numerous partners. Manual interventions during data transfer had to be avoided as well as incorrect entries, inconsistencies and missing information – errors partly due to decentralised storage – needed to be reduced to zilch. The second aim was the simultaneous update of both online shop and marketing channels, a specific requirement that proved extra challenging.

In the spring of the jubilee year and after a project duration of only six months, the task was accomplished. 1,200 products had been catalogued and centrally stored afresh. Pauline Laurent, Head of E-Commerce, praised not only the team but also the pre-activated software and the central product data management which took over – the product information management system of Akeneo, a software start-up from Nantes in France: “Their system truly revolutionised data management for our teams. Automated management has made us faster and more productive. The update of our product catalogue would normally take the entire team of five employees two months. This has been reduced to 80 percent, not to mention product changes and updates that are now done at the blink of an eye.” 

Akeneo PIM was chosen for several of its virtues. First, a perfect fit with Magento shop which was relaunched for both sites. Second, an open-source solution score with a pronounced intuitive user interface leading among other things to employees getting their hands at it very quickly. Thanks to rights management, tasks could then be allocated to different employees. Whereas each of them could previously do a part of the input to the catalogue, now they can centrally fill ten channels with Akeneo PIM. Now every employee can see the degree of completion during the preparation of the catalogue at a glance thanks to the graphics. A large amount of time saving in these processes was achieved by the team in advance as they implemented an exact definition of features, channels and fields. Pauline Laurent mentions an automatic conversion of units for different countries as an example.

Whereas data input filled ten channels, issuing then required just as many to feed the website, stores and other marketing activities with relevant data. Pauline Laurent is relieved, because the search for these has come to an end in the 70th year of Lancaster’s existence. “We are sure that we not only gain time in this constellation. Both our internal and external sales and marketing communications have become much easier today. Everyone has the same information, everyone knows where to find it as it is stored centrally, and everyone knows that they are free from errors and mistakes. Should one however still occur, everyone in the company can solve it centrally. This gives tremendous confidence in our daily work and leaves room for new, innovative ideas in online marketing.”

Digital Transformation

A brief portrait of Akeneo

Nantes, the French city on the Loire estuary, is the home of Akeneo. Only a start-up in 2012, the company has been steadily growing and now has more than sixty employees in Nantes, Boston and Dusseldorf. German customers have been getting acquainted to its qualities since Tobias Schlotter joined the company to find solution partners behind the Marinot Line. The founders of the company are Frédéric de Gombert, Benoit Jacquemont, Nicolas Dupont and Yoav Kuttner. These highly experienced e-commerce specialists are convinced that a user-friendly PIM is a prerequisite for any e-commerce business. They thus created the open-source solution Akeneo PIM, which since its launch has 40,000 sites running in over 165 countries. Being an open source project, its development team determines its specifications. The principle is carved in stone and applies to both the free version as well as the enterprise edition. Akeneo guarantees that developers can fully concentrate on product development and that their solutions are nothing less than the best and most user-friendly in the PIM market. Positive customer reactions demonstrate this point. Another great asset is a speedy installation: depending on the project two to six months.  

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Lancaster’s e-commerce strategy is based on Magento and Akeneo. Their essential link was greatly facilitated as Akeneo’s Marketplace offers a Magento connector for free. Lancaster catalogues and updates 1,200 products per season for its multishop system containing data as diverse as ERP, CSV files and photos. These are all centrally imported and stored for applications in e-commerce and e-marketing.



Picture credit © www.lancaster.com

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