November 30, 2004, 12:00 AM

Computers / Electronics / CDs / DVDs: Staying ahead in a high-tech market

(Page 3 of 5)

Crutchfield.com
Putting its expertise online

With $200 million in annual sales across its catalog, call center and web site, Crutchfield Corp. says the Internet has become customers` preferred channel, accounting for more than 50% of sales and growing. The trend reflects more than consumers` increasing adoption of the web--it also shows how adept the retailer has become at presenting online the tremendous depth of product knowledge it`s developed over the past nearly 30 years. "As the web takes hold as a leading channel, we are finding that some of our earlier investments are really paying off," says vice president of e-commerce Lawrence Becker.

Crutchfield agents get several weeks of training before taking a seat at the call center, followed by ongoing manufacturers` training. This year, Crutchfield has pushed even more of that human expertise online by cross-training more agents in chat and expanding the hours during which it`s offered.

Crutchfield has sharpened up online merchandising, adding more robust analytics capacity and using it to test and refine different copy treatments, formatting and merchandising tactics online, with the payoff in improved results, says Becker. But what really leaves the online competition behind is the Crutchfield Advisor. A pure content site linked to Crutchfield.com, it published more than 100 new articles this year alone, going beyond the usual how-to-buy information to include system installation videos and articles on how to use and enjoy consumer electronics. The articles link contextually to relevant products on the core e-commerce site.

Jupiter Research analyst Patti Freeman Evans says Crutchfield`s web site reflects the company`s core strength. "In their direct mail business, they were very informative and educational, and they do that well online. Not every shopper is going to want the Crutchfield Advisor, but those that do find it tremendously valuable," she says.

While Becker says that customers who use Crutchfield Advisor are some of the company`s best customers, he notes that Crutchfield has invested in all three channels: web, catalog and call center. "What all three have in common is that we are trying to create the most informed and prepared consumer electronics shoppers," he says.

Crutchfield Corp.
One Crutchfield Park Charlottesville, VA 22911
Date Launched
March 1996
Unique visitors (monthly)
1,800,000
Annual Web-Based Sales
$100,000,000 (est. 2004)
Vendor Relationships
Site Design
In-house
E-Commerce Platform
Microsoft
Web Hosting
Broadband Network Services Inc.
Site Search
In-house
Content Management
In-house
Order Management
In-house
Payment Processor
First Data Merchant Services
Fulfillment
In-house
Affiliate Marketing Management
Performics
Search Engine Management
Rimm-Kaufman Group
E-Mail Marketing
In-house
CRM
In-house, Talisma
Web Analytics
Coremetrics

Content Delivery Network
Akamai Technologies


Dell.com
Tech savvy and consumer-friendly

As the PC moves to the center of home entertainment systems, Dell.com`s consumer business this year builds on last year`s efforts to capture the purchase of other system components, but with a twist: the site that wins by catering to the tech-savvy is now also reaching out to the less-so.

"We`ve launched new product categories like TVs and MP3 players that more often are shopped at retail," says Michael Farello, vice president of marketing and e-business for Dell`s U.S. consumer business. "We have a terrific experience for consumers predisposed to shop direct. Now we`ve got to create excitement for those accustomed to shopping in a store."

To appeal to that broader audience, enhancements at Dell.com this year seek to translate online the excitement and urgency consumers may experience at retail. The site prominently features the day`s hot deals near the top of the consumer home page. It supported the launch of the TV category with rich media, adding 3-D product imagery and Flash to get the attention of shoppers more used to seeing TVs in a retail setting.

It`s borrowed from its own online computer configurator to create similar options for entertainment systems. Shoppers can swap out elements of systems and see the impact on price in real time. Dell`s also tweaked online configuration on the computer side, providing a core starting point on featured systems for those who don`t want to start from scratch, and then recommendations on options. "We have consumers of different sophistication levels and we want to provide an experience that accommodates that whole spectrum," Farello says.

This year, Dell added to the customer self-service available at Dellsupport.com. But it`s also placed its 800 number on pages throughout Dell.com, while some other marketers bury toll-free numbers to discourage customers from using this more expensive service channel.

Jupiter Research analyst Patti Freeman Evans says that`s a critical differentiator. "It`s best practice," she says. "Consumers say they are more inclined to shop again with a retailer where that number`s visible. Driving customer loyalty is not easy, and if you are going to keep customers, you have to offer them what is of value to them."

Dell Inc.
One Dell Way Round Rock, TX 78682
Date Launched
1996
Unique visitors (monthly)
23,920,000*
Annual Web-Based Sales
$3,200,000,000 (2003)
Vendor Relationships
Site Design
Critical Mass
E-Commerce Platform
Web Hosting
In-house
Site Search
FAST Search & Transfer
Content Management
In-house
Order Management
In-house
Payment Processor
Chase Merchant Services
Fulfillment
In-house
Affiliate Marketing Management
LinkShare

Search Engine Management
In-house
E-Mail Marketing
PeopleSoft
CRM
In-house
Web Analytics
In-house
Rich Media
In-house
*Worldwide visitors to US consumer site


FirstStreetOnline.com
Mission: Innovation

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