July 31, 2007, 12:00 AM

IRCE 2007: Report from the Conference

Afternoon Breakout Sessions

E-Retailing Technology:
Making the Right Decision
June 5, 2007: Track A

Juggling I.T. projects
How to Prioritize Your Technology Investments
Luke Friang, vice president and CIO, Drugstore.com
David Lonczak, vice president of marketing, Drugstore.com

See these other reports from
IRCE 2007:

General Sessions

Workshops

Media Center Interviews

Drugstore.com has established a framework for approaching and prioritizing technology investments. There are steps to take, however, before tech spending projects can be ranked, Luke Friang, vice president and CIO, said at IR2007. "First we identify company objectives to provide goals and identify business and functional strategies," Friang said. Checking progress against those goals throughout the process is critical to success, he added.

The next step is creating business and functional strategies to serve as a bridge between company goals and tactics, said David Lonczak, vice president of marketing at Drugstore.com.

"Each team goes out on their own to brainstorm and strategize what that team needs to do to reach the goal," Lonczak said. In the case of the company`s recent redesign of its Beauty.com e-commerce site, that meant how to market the new site and setting up a public relations campaign, he added. All core initiatives have representatives from the business, marketing and I.T. departments working alongside project managers.

Test for tech success
Avoiding Disaster: Managing a Technology Implementation
Kristin Montella, vice president, online operations, Lillian Vernon
Matthew Poepsel, vice president, performance strategies, Gomez Inc.

One of the most fundamental, and overlooked, steps in a technology implementation is testing. Testing should take place both pre- and post-launch to ensure problems are caught before they reach web site shoppers, said Kristen Montella, vice president of direct marketer Lillian Vernon`s online operations. "E-retailers need multiple systems environments that mimic production," Montella said. "It`s critical to test new implementations before customers see them. Not ad-hoc, but a real plan for real testing, not just for new code but for everything."

Although customers should not be guinea pigs for new technology implementations, they still must be accounted for, said Matthew Poepsel, vice president, performance strategies, at Gomez Inc. Changes to web page presentations and functions are "great as long as you develop appropriate experiences along the way. If the experience is negative and the customer is waiting, you have a problem," Poepsel said.

Tools for buying decisions
Identifying E-Retailing Solutions Shoppers Like
Maris Daugherty, consultant, J.C. Williams Group

Keyword search and store locator are the top decision-making tools consumers use when visiting e-retailers` sites, says a study by consultants J.C. Williams Group. Next up: Product comparison and zoom/rotate features.

"Transforming the Multi-channel Shopper" found that such basic tools are essential for a positive online shopping experience, said J.C. Williams consultant Maris Daugherty. The study was conducted with Start Sampling, a marketing company specializing in web-based consumer product sampling, and The e-Tailing Group Inc., an online marketing research and consulting company.

Basic tools drive basic actions. For example, Daugherty said the store locator function is "probably the most under-utilized by multi-channel retailers on a web site. A customer who goes there is probably going to walk into your store." Hosting and monitoring blog conversation is a good way to learn about customer preferences and how well web sites are serving their needs. The study was conducted in April, with 1,972 U.S. on- and 500 offline shoppers.

Collaboration is critical
Making E-Retailing Music: When I.T. and Marketing Harmonize
Jeff Parnell, independent consultant and former vice president, Blair Corp.
Mark Layton, CEO, PFSweb Inc., parent of eCost.com
Rob Garf, director of research, AMR Research

Catalog apparel and home furnishings retailer Blair Corp. spent seven years learning how to blend marketing and information technology efforts to buy and deploy technology tools. Jeff Parnell, former vice president at Blair Corp. and now an independent consultant, says the process is unique to each company. Communication up front and along the way helps ensure successful technology implementations, Parnell said.

Bringing information technology to the forefront of e-retailing business strategies is an important step toward online sales success, said Mark Layton, CEO at PFSweb Inc., parent of web-only electronics retailer eCost.com.

A shift to more collaboration between marketing and information technology occurred recently, said Rob Garf, director of research at AMR Research, an e-commerce and technology consulting company. That`s a far cry from the dark days of the late 1990s. "There were no brand strategies and online functions weren`t integrated with other functions," he said.

AJAX will drive Web 2.0
What Technology Is Coming and Why You Should Care
Gene Alvarez, vice president, retail e-commerce, Gartner Inc.
David Fry, president, Fry Inc.

E-retailers should take a "Web 2.0 look" at their web site for opportunities to use new rich media tools. "AJAX is a great place to start," Gene Alvarez, vice president, retail e-commerce at Gartner Inc., a research and consulting company, told an IR2007 audience.

AJAX, or Asynchronous JavaScript and XML, is a technology that enables web pages to be more interactive and display images quickly without moving to multiple pages. E-retailers are beginning to use AJAX to improve the customer experience along with sales, but the use of such Web 2.0 tools has far to go, Alvarez said.

Web 2.0 technology enables customers to get more product information and interact with e-retailers, said David Fry, president, Fry Inc., an e-commerce development and services provider. Tools include customer ratings, user-generated content and even customer photos showing how they use a product. "We think AJAX is the most important technology to be using now," Fry said.

The E-Retailing Echo Effect for
Multi-Channel Merchants
June 5, 2007: Track B

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