December 31, 2002, 12:00 AM

A mall operator finds a market in transferring real world expertise online

(Page 2 of 2)

Instead, Polo.com, a joint venture of Polo Ralph Lauren, NBC and ValueVision Media, re-launched on the Chelsea platform this summer. Previously, the site operated on what was in effect a dual platform, with front-end functions run on a content management application from one software vendor and commerce functions such as billing fed through an application from another vendor. The result, says Connor, was a platform that was struggling. “It was also a very segmented environment because our call center was on one application and the web on another,” she says. “We were looking for stability, a full view of the customer, and something much more integrated.”

Established base

Chelsea Interactive won out over other options reviewed by Polo.com not only because of Polo’s own relationship with Chelsea through its factory stores, but because of Chelsea’s established base in retail operations and the revenue sharing arrangement Chelsea Interactive offered. “You don’t have as much capital cost up front and it’s also a better growth model,” Connor says. “A lot of times people will go into a commerce package and build out a Ferrari when they don’t need a Ferrari now, but maybe in five or seven years. Incurring the cost of that all in the beginning is not always the smartest way to go.”

Today, call center and fulfillment functions at Polo.com are staffed via a shared function with ShopNBC. But the supporting applications are on Chelsea’s platform, as are commerce functions such as credit and billing, order management, warehouse interface and in-house reporting of financial data. Like Elisabeth, Polo.com does its own on-site product merchandising and creative work using the Chelsea platform’s merchandising and content management tools. E-mail program management is outsourced.

Infinite headroom

Polo.com did not disclose sales, but Reilly says the brand has experienced significant growth in online sales since coming onto the new platform.

Reilly says Chelsea Interactive delivers for its customers with the flexibility to merchandise creatively online and revenue sharing arrangements that lower the investment to get online. But if part of Chelsea Interactive’s appeal to brands going direct online is a lower cost of entry to those still experimenting with the online channel, does the outsource model still appeal as brands gain traction online and sales take off?

“We give the brands almost infinite headroom on bandwidth and traffic,” says Reilly, who notes that Chelsea Interactive operates 30 servers with continuous performance monitoring in place. “As they have more sales online, our percentage decreases so we’d anticipate that we’d always be more efficient for the brand than the brand could be going it alone. It’s like in the brick-and-mortar world. Any of the brands could operate a store by themselves but the benefits of aggregation typically outweigh going out and building it on their own.”

mary@verticalwebmedia.com

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