November 30, 2007, 12:00 AM

Computers/Electronics Figuring out needs and moving on

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Palm achieves this goal by serving up video brochures that deliver product features in bullet points that shoppers can mouse over to view how the product feature will be displayed on the device`s screen. For example, mousing over a bullet that says users can review a Microsoft Power Point presentation on the Treo 755p Smartphone shows what a Power Point presentation looks like on the device`s screen.

Shoppers have the option of clicking on a "Learn More" button in each segment of the video which opens a new segment. The videos, which can be paused, rewound or advanced by clicking on a menu of features detailed, are set to music, as opposed to narratives that walk shoppers through the features, to encourage shoppers to interact at their own pace.

"Our users expect rich features from our products and our aim is to convey that richness of the user experience on our web site," says Charlie Simpson, director of direct sales for Palm.com. "We want shoppers to explore the product, not look at it."

The use of video improves site navigation, making it easier for shoppers to find the product information they desire. "Interactive features create the same level of information and service shoppers expect in a store," Baker says. "It`s a great adjunct for e-retailers to have." Back to Top


Straight to the product

PCConnection.com, the flagship e-commerce site of direct marketer PC Connection Inc., doesn`t mess around with getting busy consumers and businesses straight to the gear they are looking for. The Merrimack, N.H.-based company uses TRAXX, an internally designed and maintained supply chain management and e-commerce platform, to give customers a one-stop shopping experience.

On PCConnection.com consumers and businesses can find computer gear, consumer electronics and related accessories and complete a purchase in as few as four clicks. For repeat shoppers, especially small businesses that purchase multiple computers and accompanying cables and printers, TRAXX can provide them with comparative pricing from several suppliers and special pricing arranged directly through the manufacturer. The system also enables buyers to compare product information and availability, submit an order online, arrange for a delivery, and track shipments.

"We designed and maintain PCConnection.com and our other e-commerce sites in ways that get busy customers where they need to go," says PC Connection senior vice president, corporate marketing and creative services, David Beffa-Negrini.

PCConnection.com provides updated information for more than 115,000 items. Shoppers can now use an updated search engine to find and compare merchandise by product type, price, platform and manufacturer. Future site enhancements include a rich media-enhanced virtual trade show that will give a visitor access to relevant technical information. "We want customers to feel like they are coming to an e-commerce site where we can get their questions answered," Beffa-Negrini says.

E-commerce is clearly a growth channel. The web now accounts for almost one-third of PC Connection`s annual revenue, compared with just 20% two years ago.

E-commerce analysts like the company`s no-nonsense approach to Internet retailing. "By serving the basic needs of the customer in a clear and concise way, the PC Connection site offers an easy way for customers to find and purchase their preferred electronics," says Sunita Gupta, executive vice president at Cleveland-based e-commerce consulting firm LakeWest Group. Back to Top


Appealing to the core
For a small retailer, PC Universe Inc. is a big developer of web site features and functions that attract serious techies. For more than a decade, Boca Raton, Fla.-based PC Universe has quietly built up PCUniverse.com into an e-commerce site that today carries an inventory of more than 25,000 products and 250,000 individual SKUs.

Over time PC Universe has seen various competitors come and go, while bigger retailers such as Newegg.com have diversified their computer products with consumer electronics and technical services. But PC Universe survives in a tough, low-margin business because it sticks to its roots and gives customers what they value most: quick and easy ways to purchase computer gear.

In the past year PC Universe has completely overhauled PCUniverse.com with advanced features that reduced the steps to finding a product and completing a purchase by 50%. The product pages also have been reconfigured to include more product reviews, buyer`s guides and other content.

Another new feature--Intelligent Cross-Sell, a product recommendation tool developed by CNET Channel but customized for PCUniverse.com--gives shoppers instant recommendations on the cables, cartridges or other accessories they need when they select a new computer or printer. "When a lot of retailers are offering similar computer equipment at the same price, we decided that building better features and functions would keep our customers focused and set us apart," says director of e-commerce Patrick Colletta.

The decision to rebuild its web site with tools that keep hardcore tech buyers coming back is paying off: PC Universe`s average ticket has grown by 25% to more than $400 in the last year while the sale of computer accessories has jumped by 22%.

To seasoned e-commerce analysts, PCUniverse.com has the look of a much larger and sophisticated web store. "The site has a couple of valuable additions that I haven`t seen on any other I.T sites that I was pleasantly pleased about," says Molecular Inc. senior design consultant Will Evans. "They understand the importance of offering useful content and original content to aid buyers in the decision process." Back to Top


Listen up

It`s axiomatic among retailers that customers should be at the center of what they do. What San Diego, Calif.-based consumer electronics retailer SonyStyle.com did in redesigning its web site gives the competition something to strive for.
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