Dune Group’s COVID-19 crisis website creates foundation for long-term success

Gary Flood Profile picture for user gflood August 9, 2022
Salesforce Commerce Cloud and the Cloudinary DAM proving to be ideal foundation for shoe and accessory company Dune’s future

An image of a Dune store in London
(Image sourced via Dune)

A major website replatforming by UK ‘affordable luxury’ footwear and accessories brand Dune Group has improved customer experience and slashed software costs.

As part of the upgrade, use of a brand-new image and media content manager meant potential shoppers trapped at home during COVID-19 could still check out the products of this London-headquartered designer, producer and distributor of high-quality shoes and accessories for men and women.

That was fortunate - for as the company’s Head of Digital Product, Elaine Smith, recalls, the move away from older technology meant that for a significant chunk of time, online rapidly became the only way the firm could commercially operate. She explained: 

I had already said we needed to replatform in order to be able to meet the growth plans that we had as a business, particularly in the international space - but in the middle of the pandemic, when we were the only channel that was trading, I revisited that conversation. 

I said, look, this is a perfect example of why digital is so important, and that if we were on a bigger platform we might be able to pivot more easily and handle things like switching off our collection channels to introducing new functions like being able to do video calls into our then-closed stores.

Prior to the dramatic events of 2019, from its 1992 beginnings as a small concession store on London’s Oxford Street, Dune Group had been using proprietary tech to manage all its digital work using what Smith describes as a “small, bespoke platform.”

The problem - as she found when she joined the company after racking up significant e-commerce experience at bigger UK retail organizations like John Lewis and House of Fraser - was that while Dune was this vendor’s most significant account, that wasn’t always translating into the levels of service it now needed.

She said: 

This small company did everything from development to the maintenance of the website, but we were kind of the guinea pig for a lot of the technology development-wise, which then meant the cost and the time to do anything took quite a bit longer than expected. 

Enterprise thinking

While Dune had low cost in one area - having one main web support contract - over time its partner had to add multiple third party plug-ins to achieve the kind of functionality it needed, including multi-language websites and a growing order book.

That, Smith found on her joining the company in early 2019, meant that the cost and complexity of managing all this was quite significant. As a result, one of the first things she did in her new role was to see if Dune could renegotiate some of these arrangements or switch out to cheaper third parties.

But coming from the enterprise world, even before the pandemic, replatforming soon started to seem a better option, especially in terms of functionality and support-cost.

And then the global health crisis struck, which accelerated plans. 

Offering a personalized experience 

Management needed no more persuasion, so very soon after Dune had switched to a new way of working - a shift that was done completely virtually, as lockdown prevented even one face-to-face meeting. 

Going live in June 2021, the new system is based on Salesforce Commerce Cloud as the main web host, and a new content management system in the form of that suite’s Page Designer.

The port went smoothly, allowing Smith to simplify a lot of her technology stack, especially replacing third parties with the platform’s built-in services. The new Dune website, she says, loads faster, looks better, and offers a richer and more personalized experience, especially at purchasing.

As stated, a key change has been the way the company now works with its digital image assets. Another issue with its incumbent provider, she says, was it had been struggling to give sufficient image-related license access - an important aspect of any B2C company’s process.

That meant a lot of photography work had been pushed offline and on to spreadsheets, which was both inefficient and error prone. This was made more complicated by the fact the brand needed to work with so many partners and franchises, which meant sharing URLs around campaigns and promotions. And this was proving complex and expensive. She added: 

If customers can't try the product there and then in an open physical shop, you must be able to give them high quality imagery instead so that they can be confident with what they're buying in terms of detail, textures, colors, and so on. 

We also knew we wanted to start to introduce video as well, so we needed a way to be able to easily do all of this and manage all of it in a way that was not going to be too expensive to run.

A final factor in the digital asset management (DAM) solution choice was if it could serve images at the best resolution for any device the user wanted to see it on. Smith said: 

80% of our traffic comes in via mobile, and so image technology that can serve the right imagery, for the right device, on whatever kind of Wi-Fi or connection speed the user has, is also incredibly important for us. 

Therefore, as part of the replatforming, the Cloudinary DAM has also been introduced. This, she says, has met all those project targets, as well as bringing along a range of other benefits.

These have ranged, she says, from trying out user-generated content, as well as delivering a beefed-up website ratings and reviews engine.

Another big plus factor is how closely the vendor can integrate with Salesforce. But perhaps the biggest benefit of all out of using DAM, she says, has been reduced operational overhead. Smith added: 

While replatforming in general has saved us considerable hosting fees, by using this software for our imagery we have saved 50% of the budget we would have had to spend on other products or equivalent products to do the job.

Setting Dune up for a better future

In place for just over a year, all these new website and image workflows, while extremely helpful, are actually just the beginning. Smith said: 

The replatforming is really the beginning of our transformation, and we’ve got a lot of things underway, especially improving things, not just for the website, but for our partners and customers through better use of data.

Really, this was and is about setting us up better for the future, improving how we trade internationally, as well as improving our SEO and acquisition channels.

We wouldn't now be able to be progressing with all the projects and the work we are doing, so it has been absolutely key for us as a brand.

Her final piece of advice: it’s surprising how long people will accept sub-optimal ways of working as the norm - but never be afraid to challenge that and seek out improvement wherever you can.

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