J.C. Penney’s web development manager told Retail Systems 2001 the top 10 things the company wished it knew before developing its web site.
JCPenney.com redesigned and relaunched its web site to what it believes is a more user friendly version earlier this year. Robert Green, manager of Internet systems development, outlined for attendees at Retail Systems 2001 ten things the company learned during its 18-month web selling endeavor:
1. Stick with core competencies: The company tried to take analysts’ advice and switch from Microsoft to Java but that “didn’t’ work out,” Green said, adding, “It just wasn’t what we were good at.”
2. Plan for concurrent development: Green said that things always need to be fixed on the site and that initially J.C. Penney had trouble with its source code management.
3. Co-locate business and technology teams: While different units can work together on a web site, they need to be close by in order to truly work together.
4. Leverage what you have: Analysts may say you need new technology but J.C. Penney found it could use its legacy system to build the web site system.
5. Content management is key to sales: Green said the number of sales goes up and down in direct relation to the number of SKUs on the site.
6. Don’t try to move web logs around the network: J.C. Penney ran into problems that collapsed the system when it tried to do this. Now, Green said, the retailer extracts information from logs and processes it separately.
7. Try things yourself: Consultants may encourage retailers to use vendors but Green said trying to do things in-house ends up being more valuable to the company by teaching staffers how to perform certain tasks.
8. Caching strategies are worthwhile: Green said J.C. Penney uses a custom-built ASP cache.
9. Site performance is fundamental: Green said J.C. Penney initially didn’t dedicate enough staff to maintaining the site’s performance, but has since adjusted to keep things running smoothly.
10. Stay calm: “A lot of people get upset, but things may not be as bad at they seem,” said Green, who added that a low-point benchmark for JCPenney.com was when a hacker e-mailed the site’s own ASP password to him.