December 13, 2002, 12:00 AM

Polo.com boosts online sales after switching technology platforms

Polo.com wanted a platform with stability, a 360-degree customer view and greater integration. It saved up to $3 million by moving to the shared platform of Chelsea Interactive vs. building it internally, Polo executives report.

Kurt Peters

Executive Editor

Though it does not disclose numbers, Polo.com has experienced a significant increase in online sales since switching to the e-commerce technology platform of Chelsea Interactive in July, Chelsea Interactive vice president of sales and marketing John Reilly tells Internet Retailer.

Chelsea Interactive, the 3-year-old e-commerce division of outlet mall developer Chelsea Property Group, provides a bundled offering that integrates technology and services from suppliers such as BroadVision Inc. and Oracle Corp. to support e-commerce applications from the front end through back-end management functions. In a business model that’s similar to how parent Chelsea Property Group handles store relationships in its offline malls, Chelsea interactive acts as a virtual landlord to its platform tenants. In return for providing the technology infrastructure and maintenance, online marketing services and the tools with which merchants can build out from the platform a site with their own look and feel, Chelsea takes 10-20% of net e-commerce sales. Some merchants choose to lower the percentage by also paying a fixed cost up front.

Previously, Polo.com was on what was in effect a dual platform, running front-end functions on a content management application from one software vendor and commerce functions such as billing on an application from another vendor. Furthermore, says Polo.com senior director of commerce technology Sharon Connor, “It was a very segmented environment because our call center was on one application and the web on another.” In upgrading capacity, adds Connor, “We were looking for stability, a full view of the customer, and something much more integrated.”

Connor estimates that building out the platform Polo.com wanted internally could have represented an investment of $2.5 million to $3 million in hardware, additional software licenses, and consulting and development costs. With the shared platform, she says. “You don’t have as much capital cost up front, and it’s a better growth model.” Reilly, who notes that the platform has 30 servers with continuous performance monitoring in place, says it provides “infinite headroom” on bandwidth and traffic to sites looking for scalability.

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