It’s a holiday Monday, the sun is out and the heat... well, the heat is set to break records. For Glasgow, at least. Typical. The Drum is sweating away in the office listening to summer in the city pass it by. No such problems for STV’s ecommerce director, Andrew Windsor. He’s currently sunning himself in Majorca, before returning next week to Glasgow and work at the newly relocated SMG headquarters at Pacific Quay. Air conditioned, no doubt.
However, Windsor has kindly agreed to take time, from his holiday, to talk to The Drum about the impending launch of STV’s new website.
Windsor joined STV in January from Lastminute.com. While he’s enthusiastic about settling into his new home at Pacific Quay, admitting that he spent most of his first two months at Cowcaddens lost in the warren-like maze of corridors that typified the old STV HQ, it’s not the new building that he is on the phone to enthuse about. For him, there is an altogether more exciting development readying for action at STV.
Windsor has been working closely with Glasgow-based agency Dog Digital to develop STV’s new website. SMG, owner of STV, has been a client of Dog Digital’s since 2002. Dog Digital re-pitched for the contract and beat competition from four other agencies to retain the business. Since 2002, the agency has designed and maintained the previous Scottish TV and Grampian TV websites, in addition to the creation and maintenance of SMG’s corporate sites. However, for the new website, Dog is working closely with Argentinian IT specialists, Globant, who were appointed to develop the back-end system and ecommerce elements for the site.
“When I joined, we tendered out for the build of the website,” says Windsor. “While Dog Digital is a fantastic team I felt that, in this instance, Dog’s strength was in the design and creative side. The Argentinian firm, Globant, are a company that I’ve worked with before at Lastminute.com – they are a real ecommerce infrastructure builder.
“The site that you see today is not what I want it to be in one year’s time,” he continues. “There is a huge amount more that we want to do with this. I want full ecommerce capability. I want full back-office integration. I want connectivity with a huge number of partners. That is what the Argentinian firm do extremely well.”
Windsor’s background is in travel ecommerce. Before Lastminute.com, he was at Thomas Cook for 14 years, where he founded ThomasCook.com in 1998. It was at the travel firm that he witnessed the boom and bust of the internet, from relative safety. And, he says, while the online industry is a great deal more considered now and lessons have been learnt, there are always going to be some business models that are better suited for the online environment than others. “Businesses like financial services and travel, as well as booking services, can use the economics of the online space. What we have now is a mature industry with intelligent people, not gamblers, who are very focussed on making economic models that make absolute sense. While I’m sure there will be a few more stupid stories to come out, lessons have been learnt.”
And Windsor feels that STV is now in a strong position to capitalise: “Thomas Cook had an absolutely fantastic brand, but marketing the ecommerce side of that cost a fortune. At Lastminute.com we had access to the media, but we really struggled to build the brand.
“In STV we have both a brilliant brand – a household name that is recognised by everyone in Scotland – and a fantastic media platform. So, in terms of getting visability for our ecommerce, and driving the brand, we are in a strong position.
“There are parallels between what we are doing here at stv.tv and what we did at Lastminute.com. We are trying to build a site that people have an excuse to go to every day. Lastminute.com branched out into film and cinema, theatres and restaurants because it didn’t just want to be about booking a flight – people, at most, will only book flights three or four times a year. We wanted to give people an excuse to use and come back to us, almost integrating us with their outward diary. That is what I now want to do with the stv.tv site.
“We will have fresh and breaking news about Scotland, we want the best sports coverage. Also we want to look at restaurants and style, new shop openings and food. We want to give people in Scotland a tool that can entertain and inform, a tool that they can’t do without.”
As well as a comprehensive news service, which also invites people to become 'citizen reporters' by providing their own news, photos and video clips, the new site will offer an 'out' section for what's going on across Scotland, be it films, music, films, shops, fashion, theatre, dance, clubs, comedy, eating out or concerts; or, if users don't want to go out, the site will soon give options for DVD rental, TV guides, computer games and books.
There will be an online dating service and a new 'win' section featuring bingo, quiz-show and casino based games.
Other additions to the site under development are an online wine club and a genealogy section to help trace a family tree.
“The STV site will not just be used to reinforce the brand. It is there to generate an income too,” continues Windsor. “The cost of building the site was relatively low. The site’s largely content driven and we had a great deal of the content in place already – the STV news team feeding us news for the site and the Scotsport team providing sports content.
“We’ve also done some very interesting deals with people like The List and The Skinny to use their content for a going out section. What we’re doing with our dating partner, and our DVD rental partner, is working on a revenue share model. We want to strike partnerships with good commercial partners.
“Advertising will continue to grow online, but what advertising doesn’t do online is add to the site in any way. If we can help advertisers reach the right customer in a highly targeted way, that’s great, but to drive the use of the site we decide to develop commercial agreements with partners that can deliver interesting content and functionality to our customers.”