November 25, 2002, 12:00 AM

Computers/Electronics/CDs: High-tech sites for tech-smart shoppers

(Page 6 of 6)

TowerRecords.com has never shied away from new technology. It jumped on the web early, when it feared the online CD sellers. It was one of the earliest sites to adopt analytics to monitor customers’ shopping experiences. And it was a test site for the search-and-browse technology of start-up Endeca Technologies Inc. So its product recommendation engine is probably automated, right?

No, says Mark Bressler, managing director of TowerRecords.com. “Our recommendations are based on editorial input,” he says. “They come from people who work in the stores or the call center or who are buyers.”

That touch makes a big difference in making TowerRecords.com a standout site, says Duif Calvin, San Francisco-based retail analyst. “It makes it more likely that you’ll find something not spotlighted at every other music site and that makes the site reflective of the Tower brand,” she says. “Automated systems will always go to the least common denominator.”

That image fits perfectly into Tower Records’ objectives with its web site. In fact, TowerRecords.com largely operates as an adjunct to the stores. “We’ve emerged as a special order site,” Bressler says. “We cater to enthusiasts who are looking for hard-to-find music.” Much of what TowerRecords.com sells would be uneconomical to stock in stores. “We sell an enormous number of titles, but there are many that we sell only one or two copies of,” Bressler says.

With that approach, TowerRecords.com has attracted a unique customer; price falls lower on its customers’ lists than with customers elsewhere. Most come for the selection, the ease of use and the ability to browse the offerings, Bressler says. TowerRecords keeps that hierarchy in mind when it makes changes to the site, as it did recently. The new version of the home page that it launched in the fall is less cluttered while listing all the major categories, has a larger area for merchandising and faster downloads. Such attention to detail pays off. “Every time we release a performance improvement, we see an improvement in the business,” Bressler says.

But even with its focus on the music enthusiasts who are shopping on the web for something unique and its stellar web site, TowerRecords.com continues to emphasize its offline roots. The home page greets customers with a “Why Buy from Tower” message that includes a reference to the company’s 42-year history. “They’re telling their customers, We’re not someone who showed up three years ago and we won’t be gone three years from now,” Calvin says. “It’s difficult to find something that distinguishes you as a brand, and that really helps.”

TowerRecords.com

Date
November 1996
Unique Visitors
657,123/mo.*
Design By
in-house
Site Search
Endeca Technologies Inc.

CRM

Digital Impact Inc.
Affiliate Management
Commission Junction Inc.
Fulfillment
Bayside Distribution,
Alliance Entertainment, MSI
Order Management
in-house
*As reported by comScore Networks Inc.
Returns Liquidation

in-house
Web Analytics
Fireclick Inc.
Payment Processor
Bank of America
Content Management
Endeca Technologies Inc., Akamai Technologies
E-mail Management
Digital Impact Inc.

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