January 13, 2010, 12:00 AM

FirstStreet heads into 2010 with technology updates

FirstStreet, a direct marketer of housewares and gadgets for baby boomers, changed its e-commerce platform and introduced live chat in 2009.

Bill Briggs

Senior Editor

FirstStreet, a direct marketer of housewares and gadgets for baby boomers, didn’t let the recession that gripped the economy last year prevent it from making major technology changes. The company replaced FirstStreetOnline.com’s e-commerce platform, added a microsite and deployed live chat.

“The year was one of testing new ideas and a little bit of reactionary advertising based on softening of demand as a result of economic woes from late 2008 to summer of 2009,” says Hunter Mefford, director of Internet marketing for FirstStreet, No. 454 in the Internet Retailer Top 500 Guide (a PDF version of the company’s financial and operating profile can be ordered by clicking on its name).

While the company pulled back on paid search advertising at the beginning of 2009, its change in platform to Escalate Retail’s technology in early March helped with natural search engine results. To rank higher in search engine results, FirstStreet introduced canonical URLs that incorporate product names in the product page addresses instead of a string of numbers or symbols.

The company also launched live chat on its site and a new microsite, TheGoComputer.com, which sells computers for seniors.

“We were finding that although people were engaged, which we measured by time they were viewing products, they weren’t purchasing at acceptable rates,” says Mefford. “There is security and trust associated with having a human answer questions in an online atmosphere.”

Since introducing live chat on TheGoComputer.com, sales on TheGoComputer.com increased 10-fold, says Mefford.

Plans for 2010 include increased marketing efforts on social networks such as Facebook to engage existing customers and attract new ones.

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