September 12, 2007, 12:00 AM

PFSweb rebuilds eCost.com from the ground up

When PFSweb Inc. acquired eCost.com in February 2006 it inherited a site with an outdated design, a look the company is rapidly changing.

Sometimes the best way to redesign a web site is just starting from scratch. When PFSweb Inc. acquired online electronics retailer eCost.com in February 2006 it inherited a site with an outdated design and a poorly performing e-commerce platform. “When we acquired the site we knew going in that it had a lot of orphan technology we were going to replace,” says PFSweb chairman and CEO Mark Layton. “The site was poorly maintained and not very well organized.”

ECost.com began as an e-commerce site that specialized in selling discontinued personal computers and related gear. Now PFSweb, which is working to jump start eCost.com’s lagging sales and profits, is adding more diverse lines of merchandise such as home and outdoor electronics and, possibly, software. But before PFSweb could add any more merchandise, the company first needed to redesign eCost.com, an ongoing process that began in late 2006.

To improve performance, eCost.com, No. 111 in the Internet Retailer Top 500 Guide, now features more product detail on its merchandise pages and multiple product images. A related accessories tab was also added to each product page. A big component of the redesign was adding more product content and images. In the consumer electronics and computer market, it’s not unusual for manufacturers to send retailers as many 1,000 new SKU changes each month. But keeping up with the changes can be difficult. As part of the redesign of eCost.com, PFSweb has signed a content delivery agreement with Etilize Inc.

With a content delivery network, PFSweb and eCost.com can update product details and images almost instantly. By leveraging Etilize’s content aggregation services, eCost.com is increasing the size of its online product inventory and offering a wider range of brand name consumer electronics, says Layton. “One of the ways we are setting eCost.com apart from the competition is to see that all of the products are properly merchandised,” he says. “That means full descriptions and images for each of the products we carry.” With the use of syndicated content eCost.com is now offering 116,000 SKUs – 45% more than one year ago – and could eventually carry as many as 360,000 SKUs.

Over the next several months PFSweb is planning more redesign changes and technology updates such as adding a new site search program from Visual Sciences Inc. Though PFSweb is still working to make eCost.com profitable – in the second quarter of 2007 the site posted a net loss of $600,000 on revenue of $27.1 million – ongoing design changes are making a difference. Over the past year the average time shoppers spend on the site has increased by 13% to 8 minutes and 53 seconds and the average ticket has risen by 46% to $205. “With these and many other improvements under way, we believe we are well-positioned for continued growth in the eCost.com business,” says Layton.

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