July 31, 2007, 12:00 AM

IRCE 2007: Report from the Conference

(Page 6 of 6)

The online retailer hired reps fluent in Spanish to help expedite phone calls and e-mails from Hispanic shoppers. "We call them shining stars," Jackson said. "The shining is required, but the customer service experience not so much because we can train them."

Order to go
How to Choose an Integrated Back-end Solution
Donny Askin, CEO, OrderMotion Inc.
Neil Kugelman, CEO, GoldSpeed.com

There comes a time when most web retailers need to seriously consider investing in an order management system that can keep pace with business development and customer demand, said Neil Kugelman, CEO of Goldspeed. With about 20,000 SKUs in its online inventory and numerous drop shipping relationships, Goldspeed.com uses a hosted order management system for better flexibility and to access information in real time. "If I don`t get to work, the phones would be answered," said Kugelman. "If there`s a blizzard, I can log on for anything."

A typical web merchant can expect to spend 0.6% to 1.25% of annual sales on a hosted application, said OrderMotion CEO Donny Askin. In comparison, the cost of maintaining an outdated internal system can cost as much as 6% of annual revenue. "With the pace of technology today, no company can be good at everything," Askin said. "You want an instant view of your business at any time."

`Til death do us part
Show Me the Money Without Showing Me the Door
Scott Potter, partner, San Francisco Equity Partners
Toni Sikes, CEO, The Guild

Finding the right investor to help build a business is like finding a marriage partner: It`s a process of getting to know each other, finding out whether both share goals and can get along.

Toni Sikes has obtained capital from several venture capital funds for her business, The Guild, which sells artists` work online. "The key is planning," Sikes said. She said a company`s owners have to figure out how much money they need, how much equity they`re willing to part with, and whether they`re looking for an investor with particular expertise.

Scott Potter, partner with San Francisco Equity Partners, one of the investors in The Guild, explained that he wants a concise summary of the market and the business. "Address competitors," he said. "Take it on and explain how you`re going to win."

Once a deal is done, Sikes emphasized that it`s important to keep investors informed. "Our investors get an e-mail every morning showing sales, traffic and other metrics from the day before," she said.

What investors want
Selling Your E-Business on Your Terms
Mark Mahaney, analyst, Citigroup/Smith Barney
Steve Antisdel, COO, WorkingPerson.com and former owner of FurnitureFind.com

With online retail sales growing three to four times faster than offline sales, online retailing and technology will be hot categories for mergers and acquisitions in coming years, predicted Mark Mahaney, Citigroup/Smith Barney analyst. Prime targets will be companies involved in mobile commerce, online advertising tools and user-generated content.

He said Citigroup projects U.S. online retail sales will grow 18.5% this year to $127.1 billion, and increase 16.5% and 15.0% in 2008 and 2009.

How do you attract investors? "Create a sustainable, competitive advantage," said Steve Antisdel, chief operating officer at WorkingPerson.com who built and sold FurnitureFind.com. "That`s what buyers are interested in buying."

Among the ways to do that, he said, are to select products that are right for your customers, use great photography to show them off, provide plenty of information about your merchandise and encourage customer reviews. Finally, he added, "Be easy to buy from. The whole process should be clear and simple."

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