Auroville’s online store offers anything but your regular e-commerce experience.
The incremental improvements to auroville.com since it was founded in 2008 have not just been about embracing newer technologies, but also about drawing visitors to the unique philosophy of the universal township founded by Mirra Alfassa, ‘The Mother’, in 1968.
Shoppers from all over the world do not just purchase a product off the shelves, but, with each transaction, also take away something out of the Aurovillian way, especially its uncompromising adherence to quality, eco-friendly ethos, the advocacy of an urban-rural continuum and how empowerment of communities around the Auroville bio-region are tied to production.
Last month, auroville.com switched to a more robust version of Magento, the open source e-commerce platform, refurbished its home page and added a number of features designed to enhance the shopping experience.
Most significantly, after the upgrade from Magento version 1.7 to 1.9, the site is now mobile and tablet responsive.
“We implemented the migration in two phases,” says Luise, a German who now volunteers at Auroville to make the online store a dynamic presence across platforms such as YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest.
“Alongside upgrading to a newer technology platform for the back-end functions, we also revamped the look and feel of the front-end as well,” she said.
New features include the ‘sticky’ navigation (where the top line menu stays put even while scrolling down), slide-show promos and the ‘search by manufacturer’ facility.
The payment options are the same though the store managers are looking at introducing a net banking payment gateway with adequate security layers.
“It is a more cohesive ecosystem that we have now,” said Stephan Himmer, who manages the site.
Auroville events, the Matrimandir calendar, slices of life or theme-based campaigns get prominent play. For instance, during Deepavali, the tips ranged from the recipe for a quick sweet to a guide for gift-packaging and now, cheese (Lofabu, farm and Parmesan Grated varieties) is the flavour of the season.
The site also carries links to the store’s social media platforms. Blogging is also an actively promoted engagement in the new site, Mr. Himmer said.
The online store deals with over 3,500 products ranging across books, body care, incense sticks, spirulina and jam varieties, homeware, clothing, children’s gifts and greeting cards.
Orders pour in from overseas destinations such as France, Germany, Russia and cities across the US as well as cities all over India.
Of late, the store has resorted to the marketing of festivals such as Deepavali, which reflects a pendulum swing from offshore visitors—who once accounted for 60 per cent of clientele—to domestic shoppers whose proportions are set to outgrow the international segment.
Mr. Himmer said the back-end team is also growing with a fair share of young volunteers signing up for a job that involves liaisoning with more than 30 manufacturing units in the universal township and the works of customer experience management, from order processing, providing real-time consignment location updates, delivery at the doorstep and analysing feedback.
“The bottom line for the online store is not just about sleeker design or ease of navigation...importantly for us we also present a window to the Auroville universe,” Mr. Himmer said.