March 16, 2004, 12:00 AM

GearDirect.com says online inventory updates boosting web sales

To increase sales and build customer relationships on the web, sporting goods retailer GearDirect.com is relying more on daily data feeds to update online inventory records. The system is producing stronger ROI than paid search, the retailer says.

To increase sales and build customer relationships on the web, sporting goods retailer GearDirect.com LLC is relying more on daily data feeds to update online inventory records. "It makes our product listings more valuable to customers and produces better conversion rates," John Siewierski, manager of e-commerce and catalogs, tells Internet Retailer. "The daily feeds are producing better ROI than paid search."

GearDirect began channeling daily data on inventory availability at the beginning of last year’s holiday shopping season, when holiday demand combines with its forte in snow-ski equipment to create its busiest selling period. Although Siewierski declines to provide figures on increased conversion rates, he says the inventory data feeds are already showing a strong impact on sales. "It’s growing our business, and it’s more of what our future will be."

GearDirect extracts data from its inventory management system each day to update inventory status indicators on its own web site as well as on third-party sites. It sends the data in XML form in an FTP file to Amazon.com, for instance, where it is one of six featured ski equipment merchants. GearDirect is also sending the data to comparison shopping site Shopping.com, and may soon begin working with Google Inc.’s Froogle.com. Providing the inventory updates on shopping comparison sites can provide a crucial competitive advantage in standing out among other merchants, Siewierski says.

GearDirect, a unit of Specialty Sports Ventures, also operates ColoradoSnowboards.com and catalogs. But the web sales are growing faster than the catalog, Siewierski says. In addition to the increase in business tied to its daily inventory updates, he adds, GearDirect.com is growing sales among buyers of snow-ski equipment who live in southern states, where there tend to be few ski shops to serve a large number of skiers who travel north every year in search of snowy mountains.

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