September 28, 2011, 2:07 PM

How Staples.com upped back-to-school performance

A new e-commerce platform has quickened page loads by up to 55%, Staples says.

Paul Demery

Managing Editor, B2B E-commerce

Lead Photo

With new IBM WebSphere Commerce e-commerce software supported by web servers running IBM Corp.’s new Power7 processors, Staples Inc. has been able to speed up web page downloads by up to 55%, the retailer says.

“From a performance perspective, we saw customer experience and page download times improve anywhere from 25% to 55%,” says Ken Moore, vice president, information technology, for Staples North American Delivery, the retailer’s North American retailing arm which includes Staples.com. He adds that the IBM system has also supported strong download performance on mobile devices.

Staples, No. 2 in the Internet Retailer Top 500 Guide, upgraded Staples.com earlier this year from a prior version of WebSphere Commerce.

IBM’s pairing of its server hardware and e-commerce software in a single package offered to retailers is part of broader trends both within IBM and the e-commerce technology industry, experts say. “We’re starting to see vendors selling more hardware-software combinations,” says Paula Rosenblum, managing partner at research and advisory firm Retail Systems Research LLC.

The potential advantages can be tighter integration between hardware and software to produce better web site performance, including faster loading of content-heavy web pages, as well as an improved ability to compile data on online customer shopping behavior and react to it with personalized content. “We expect to see the new Staples.com platform help us better meet our customers’ changing needs and drive growth in our e-commerce sales,” Moore says.

IBM’s packaging of its hardware and software is part of what IBM refers to as its Smarter Commerce initiative, which involves closely integrating multiple pieces of technology required to effectively market to consumers online. “There are some interesting aspects of IBM’s Smarter Commerce initiatives in pairing commerce, web content, order management, web analytics and business intelligence solutions,” says Brian Walker, an e-commerce technology analyst at Forrester Research Inc.

At IBM’s Smarter Commerce Global Summit last week, e-retailers including Target Corp. and Paris-based L’Occitane en Provence said they were using IBM’s integrated technology platform to better respond to customers’ interests. Phil McKoy, vice president of technology services for Target, No. 22 in the Top 500 Guide, said the recently re-launched Target.com uses IBM’s e-commerce technology to better cater to Target.com customers’ changing shopping preferences with more personalized merchandising and marketing. L’Occitane said that by using IBM’s Coremetrics Livemail e-mail marketing system integrated with its e-commerce platform to send highly targeted messages to customers, it has generated e-mail conversion rates 17 times higher than under a prior system, resulting in 25 times more revenue per e-mail.

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