September 1, 2006, 12:00 AM

Growing Pains

(Page 3 of 3)

“We could still keep someone like Truition or ChannelAdvisor in the mix because we need an integration partner,” Simpson adds, “but we want to own our core technology to generate purchase orders, warehouse pick sheets and have the ability to turn on and off certain products for certain channels, then let Truition or someone plug into our back-end platform to run the front end and web design.”

The lowest cost option

Whatever platform decision a growing online retailer makes, it shouldn’t overlook the option of expanding on its existing platform and avoiding the unknown of migrating to a new one, experts say. “You may get some additional flexibility and features by switching to a new e-commerce platform, but you may not get the ease or speed of upgrading to the enhancements that you’re looking for,” Freeman Evans says. “Retailers should first look seriously to see that they are maximizing the opportunities they have with their current platform, because a lot of times they’re not, or maybe they haven’t upgraded to the latest version.”

That, in fact, is the approach that Kazoo & Co is now taking. After taking a hard look at options other than its Yahoo Merchant Solutions platform, Kazoo owner and president Nelson has decided to stick with Yahoo. With the enhancements added to the Yahoo platform for merchandising, marketing, inventory control and other things, it made more sense to stay on the platform, she says.

The Yahoo Store platform supports Kazoo’s ability to reach two of its main goals: to make the site more user-friendly with fewer clicks to find a desired product and get through checkout, and to better optimize the site for natural Internet search results, she says. Plus, it can support Kazoo’s goals without taking on the additional and unneeded complexity that might come with a new platform, says Ward of Infuse Creative. “We’re finding Yahoo Merchant Solutions to be more organic search friendly,” Ward says. “So why add complexity with a new platform when you don’t need it?”

Still, with her eye on long-term growth, Nelson figures it might not be long before she’s again reconsidering her platform options. “We’re staying with Yahoo as of now because its platform works for KazooToys.com,” she says. “But as we continue to grow and outgrow what Yahoo has to offer us we will have to develop a new platform.”

paul@verticalwebmedia.com

 

Platform check list

First steps:

1. Identify requirements/functions of existing site.

2. Identify pain points and pleasure points in your existing site, for both the customer-facing web pages and the back end/administration.

3. Identify any hosting and mail server transfers that may need to be made.

 

Pre-launch:

1. Determine integration requirements.

2. Finalize site function/design requirements.

3. Ensure that all integration points (product catalog, inventory, order fulfillment, CRM, etc.) are tested.

4. Ensure that data migration for customer accounts is tested.

5. Migrate customer data.

6. Launch site

 

Post-launch:

7. Migrate any new customer data.

8. Ensure adequate monitoring of site.

9. Ensure affiliate relationships are in place.

10.Ensure on-site analytics are properly collecting data.

Source: Novator Systems Ltd.

New e-commerce platform? Watch those search rankings

With web sales surging in recent years, largely due to search engine marketing, National Allergy Supply took several steps to assure that its new e-commerce platform would maintain the same high natural search rankings, says John Fry, vice president of marketing and sales.

National Allergy, which sells on the web at NatlAllergy.com, had consistently maintained natural search rankings on Google and Yahoo within the top five listings with its former Linux-based e-commerce platform. But when it recently migrated to DMinSite’s Microsoft-based Mercury 6.0 platform, it was concerned search engine spiders would no longer recognize its pages, causing its rankings to drop.

“We had worked over the years to gain those rankings, but when going from a Linux open-source platform to a Microsoft platform everything changes,” Fry says. “All the URLs change, and we were really concerned that the new URLs wouldn’t be seen by spiders and that we would lose our rankings. That was scary to us.”

But with a page development strategy that includes use of a URL re-writer tool, DMinSite assured that the new page URLs appear the same to search engine spiders, Fry says. “We’ve maintained our high natural search rankings,” he says.

A key part of the process to protect rankings was to assure that each page’s title tag, or URL, contains all the same text that appeared on the old site, says Larry Kavanagh, CEO of DMinSite. The challenge is to use the old text while also assuring that the new page tags function properly to avoid error messages, he adds. “The URL re-writer makes the page appear to both humans and robotic spiders as if it’s in the old structure, so that it looks like the old tag but still offers the functionality of the new one,” Kavanagh says. “We want the search engine spiders to see the same meta information for the categories, products and article pages. This means the new web site receives the same high rankings it received on the previous platform.”

Another method to protect natural rankings is to develop a site map for all new pages and include the map on all of a site’s pages, because spiders use the maps to index all the pages on a site, Kavanagh says.

Click Here for the Internet Retailer Guide to Providers of E-Commerce Technology

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