March 28, 2006, 12:00 AM

Discovery Channel prepares for e-commerce expansion in Europe

With a U.K. web site already up, the Discovery Channel looks to streamline European e-commerce expansion with a single local vendor that provides multi-language web development, customer support and fulfillment.

Discovery Channel, with an e-commerce site to support its TV programming in the U.S., broadcasts into 28 million homes in Europe but had no e-commerce presence there-until lately. With a site recently launched in the United Kingdom, Discovery Channel’s found a way to expedite its further expansion into Europe. It uses a single European vendor for the full spectrum of operational services spanning web development, order management, payments processing, multi-lingual customer support, and logistics and fulfillment services.

EPIE, the e-commerce unit of Ireland-based vendor Partners in Europe Ltd., built and launched Discovery Channel’s e-commerce site in the United Kingdom. Inventory and fulfillment services for the site are provided out of Partners in Europe’s Shannon, Ireland-based logistics center; contact center support for the site, covering both telephone and e-mail, is under the same roof.

Partners in Europe, which offers customer support and web development services in German, French, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese and Dutch as well as English, expects to roll out e-commerce sites for the Discovery Channel in Germany, followed by France, the Netherlands and possibly Spain this year, according to Dan O’Mahony, Partners` business development manager.

Phone numbers set up in each supported country come to the center and are automatically routed to agents that use the needed language. E-mails are also routed to agents with the correct language ability. Agents at the company, which also supports European sites for other U.S. marketers, in some cases also log into the marketer’s U.S.-based web enabled systems, such as CRM systems, for information on customer queries, and then provide answers based on that information to the customer in their local language, says O’Mahony. Partners also is handling local vendor relationships on licensed merchandise in each individual country where the online store will launch.

“The European market now stands at 450 million consumers,” says O’Mahony. “This can be a very attractive market for North American e-commerce companies, provided they have the right local partners to support their efforts.”

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