December 11, 2003, 12:00 AM

CompUSA uses web-based SoftwareToGo to virtually expand shelf space

With a limited amount of shelf space to display what appears like an unlimited number of software titles, CompUSA is using a new web-based SoftwareToGo system that lets it burn software CDs in-store for its customers.

Kurt Peters

Executive Editor

With a limited amount of shelf space to display what appears like an unlimited number of software titles, CompUSA is using a new web-based SoftwareToGo system from ProtoCall Technologies Inc. that lets it burn software CDs in-store for customers.

"Electronic delivery will enable us to offer our publishers’ full catalogue coverage and to grow our software sales significantly by increasing our selection without increasing the amount of floor space we devote to the category," said Tony Weiss, president and COO of CompUSA Stores.

The SoftwareToGo system contains content for more than 1,000 software titles from more than 200 publishers--enough to nearly double the number of software SKUs carried in-store by CompUSA, a spokesman for Commack, NY-based ProtoCall says. The system is going live in 25 CompUSA stores this month and will run in all 227 CompUSA stores early next year, CompUSA said.

The SoftwareToGo system combines in-store storage of encrypted software content with a web connection to ProtoCall for de-encrypting the software and registering it with publishers. Shoppers use a self-service touch-screen terminal to search for a desired software title and print out an order form. The terminal allows shoppers to search by product name, product category, publisher, price and other criteria; the terminal also provides video demonstrations of what each software product does.

A shopper takes the order form to a store cashier and pays for the software. The store clerk then sends the order information over the web to ProtoCall, which sends back over the web the de-encryption key to let the retailer unlock the encrypted software content, which CompUSA stores on in-store computer systems. CompUSA then burns the unencrypted content onto a CD, packages it and hands it to the customer. The order and burn processes take about five minutes, the ProtoCall spokesman says.

ProtoCall forwards the software sale information to the software publisher, a process that frees the publisher from maintaining contacts with hundreds of retail stores. “We act as a just-in-time distributor for software publishers,” the ProtoCall spokesman says.

ProtoCall also uses the web to send new encrypted software content and software patches to stores. ProtoCall is also testing the SoftwareToGo system with Office Depot and consumer electronics retailer The Wiz.

 

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