July 30, 2008, 12:00 AM

Crafting a web business

(Page 3 of 3)

A 2007 Harris Interactive survey found that 25% of U.S. adult Internet users believe that web site security is the most important aspect of shopping on the Internet. The survey, conducted on behalf of Tealeaf Technology Inc., found that ease of completing a transaction was next, cited by 21% of respondents. This year’s Top 500 added Security Certification as a category and VeriSign Inc. was named by 102 customers. Next was McAfee-formerly ScanAlert-with 99, followed by Thawte Inc. with 16. VeriSign clients include Office Depot Inc. (No. 3) and CDW Corp. (No. 9), McAfee’s list features Cabela’s Inc. (No. 40) and The Home Depot Inc. (No. 42), and Thawte retailers include Blinds.com (No. 193) and Cymax Stores Inc. (No. 247).

Site Design

Internal expertise

The top three vendors in Site Design mustered only 29 mentions by Top 500 retailers. But the total is more significant when considering that 396 of the Top 500 handle site design in house. This year Fry Inc. was cited most often with 14 customers, including Spiegel Brands Inc. (No. 56) and Orchard Brands Corp. (No. 60). Next was GSI Commerce Inc. with nine, including Adidas America Inc. (No. 302) and ShopPBS.com (No. 380). ShopPBS.com’s recent site redesign took 18 months, says Andrea Downing, vice president of home entertainment and partnerships. But after its July 2007 rollout, the new version made products easier to find and yielded a 31.4% increase in orders and 3.4% more checkouts, she says. Solid Cactus Inc. rounded out the top three site design vendors and was mentioned by six retailers, including BizChair.com (No. 224) and TigerGPS.com Ltd. (No. 319).

Site Search

Seizing the searchers

Site search is the most common feature on e-commerce web sites but can sometimes be underused, experts say. Retailers seem to be embracing third party technology, as evidenced by Endeca Technologies Inc. and Celebros, the top two vendors in both the 2007 and 2008 editions. This year, the two accounted for 105 Top 500 retailers, at 78 and 27 respectively. That was up by 18% compared with 89 (67 and 22) the prior year. Mercado Software was listed by 25 retailers, including OfficeMax Inc. (No. 6) and Ross-Simons Inc. (No. 141). Ross-Simons deployed Mercado’s search, navigation and merchandising technology on its web site in September 2007. The jewelry retailer wanted online customer service to more closely match the level in stores and to give marketing and merchandising groups the tools to make changes more quickly, bypassing the I.T. department, says Larry Davis, vice president of marketing. Endeca clients include CDW Corp. (No. 9) and Newegg.com (No. 10) and Celebros Top 500 customers include Ice.com Inc. (No. 144) and Skymall Inc. (No. 153).

Web Analytics

Micro-metrics

Web analytics applications can tell retailers what shoppers bought-and what they didn’t buy-faster than ever before and that can lead to more sales. A 2007 web site upgrade that rolled out in late 2006 paved the way for 33% growth, to $85.2 million, for ShoeMall.com, part of Mason Companies Inc. With better e-mail technology, from CheetahMail, and better reporting using a new web analytics package from Omniture Corp., ShoeMall now concentrates on bringing more focused branding and merchandising messages to its core audience, says Internet director Jodi Bresina. Omniture, Coremetrics and Google Inc. were the top three vendors, in order, listed by Top 500 retailers. The providers account for the majority of web analytics customers, with a total of 389 retailers. Individually, they served 187, 116 and 86 companies, respectively. Omniture customers also include Apple Inc. (No. 7). Coremetrics’ list includes Office Depot Inc. (No. 3) and OfficeMax Inc. (No. 6), and Google’s features Blue Nile Inc. (No. 48) and CSN Stores Inc. (No. 69).

Web Hosting

Hand it over

A 2007 Internet Retailer survey of web retailers found that 72% of retailers use an outside company to host their web site, that is, to store and relay all data, and provide technical support and maintenance. The survey also found that most retailers were happy with their present hosting company: about 61% of retailers had no plans to replace their provider. Yahoo Inc. was listed by 25 retailers in the Top 500, followed by Rackspace with 22 and GSI Commerce Inc. with 17. Yahoo clients include OpticsPlanet Inc. (No. 220) and Jomashop.com (No. 222); Rackspace’s customers include Coastal Contacts Inc. (No. 120) and Decorative Hardware Direct (No. 241); and GSI Commerce clients include MLB Advanced Media (No. 158) and Liz Claiborne Inc. (No. 357).

Web Performance Monitoring

Varying performance

Despite a growing commitment to information systems, many web retailers still have erratic site performance. A 2007 survey by Internet Retailer found that 62% of web retailers measure lost revenue as a direct result of poor performance, even though most web retailers do some kind of web site performance testing. 51% use a third-party service or application and 49% do the job in house. The survey also revealed that, of the companies that do their own monitoring, about 51% had no plans to outsource the job, compared with 14% that expected to do so by the end of 2007, 6% in early 2008 and 29% that didn’t know. In the 2008 Top 500, Gomez Inc. was named most often in the web performance monitoring category, by 99 retailers. Keynote Systems Inc. was next with 36 mentions and AlertSite followed with 18 clients. Gomez customers include Amazon.com Inc. (No. 1) and Victoria’s Secret Direct, a unit of Limited Brands Inc. (No. 20). Keynote Systems customers include Hanover Direct Inc. (No. 81) and The Parent Co. (No. 117) and AlertSite was named by Sierra Trading Post Inc. (No. 99) and Lamps Plus Inc. (No. 139).

billb@verticalwebmedia.com

Click Here for the Guide to Top 500 Solutions Leaders

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