June 3, 2004, 12:00 AM

SPONSORED SUPPLEMENT: The All-In-One E-Commerce Platforms

One of the major changes that has overtaken the Internet since the early days is the need for retailers to make quick changes to their sites. As the medium has become a major shopping channel, consumers have come to expect that sites will have the most up-to-date information about products, sales, inventory and their own orders. At the same time, retailers no longer believe that online retailing is a one-size-fits-all proposition, for either the consumer or the retail enterprise.

Until recently, many thought the solution to creating a custom experience was dynamically driven site designs that would download pages that best suited individual shoppers. But that thinking is changing and today some experts believe that the best way to meet the needs of different shoppers is to present progressively more customized pages, starting with one page that has a high degree of static content and working to pages with greater amounts of dynamically generated content.

Performance vs. information

That is the approach that Ecometry Corp. is taking as it heads toward next January’s Version 8.0 release of Ecometry Open Systems. “Our aim is to get appropriate performance out of a web site vs. the need to generate dynamic information,” says John Marrah, president of Delray Beach, Fla.-based Ecometry.

Ecometry, which counts some 370 customers, is moving forward with its Version 8.0 even as it’s making a splash with its Version 7.0, which came out in March. Version 8.0 will build on Version 7.0’s entire platform for e-commerce-that also contains a single multi-channel customer database-and will allow retailers to design, build and deploy web sites all from a single platform. The benefit to that approach, Marrah says, is that it allows retailers total control over their site functionality, providing them with the ability to make changes as needed. With a single interface, Marrah explains, a retailer can create the site, determine what information goes where, and launch the site.

And it does that all without requiring business users to go through an IT gatekeeper. “It allows them to define what they want each page to look like, all from an administrative tool,” Marrah says.

Marrah notes that a home page might have virtually all static material. Such a page would be a welcome page with graphics, high level categorizations that help customers narrow their choices and a log-in option. The next page could contain as much as 70% static material, but starts down the path of generating custom pages. Dynamic generation can become a greater portion of subsequent pages. “If you can get customers to log in, you can start delivering dynamic pages based on who they are, what they are looking at and what they have bought in the past,” Marrah says.

Marrah says 8.0 will include the ability for retailers to create their webs sites using a block design comprised of specific functions, such as shopping carts, product detail, product search and log-in function. It also will allow retailers to easily change the look of their sites.

Tremendous flexibility

Ecometry’s new functionality-and plans for even further refinements-grow out of changes in the marketplace over the last two years, Marrah says. “Two years ago, many retailers’ attitude was that they had to have a web site because everybody else had a web site,” he says. “Today, the web site has become an important part of brand continuity.”

As a result, many retailers are looking to give customers a seamless cross-channel brand. “They want to give the same level of customer experience online as in their other channels,” Marrah says. “That demands tremendous flexibility.”

Retailers have embraced that notion so strongly that Ecometry’s business has skyrocketed in the past year, Marrah says. The number of customers coming on board in the first quarter of this year, for instance, was 300% higher than in the first quarter of last year, he reports, while Q2 is on a 100% growth track. Things will taper off as the holiday shopping period clamps down retailers’ innovation, but Marrah says the company still expects significant growth this year. “People are seeing e-commerce as not just another channel but as a big driver of revenue,” he says.

In addition to retailers’ greater recognition of the importance of e-commerce, Marrah says the growth is the reflection of today’s technological reality. “Retailers have gotten five, six, seven years out of their systems by now,” he says. “Systems purchased seven years ago will not provide the functionality that retailers need to compete today.”

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