August 1, 2005, 12:00 AM

Struggling with Juggling

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With tightly packaged, but more information-intensive home and interior pages, web retailers are delivering content in ways that make it more inviting for customers to stay and shop. Some retailers, says Robert Hammond, chief technology officer for Mirror Image Internet Inc., a content delivery and services company, are also offering shoppers different experiences based on how they access the site. For instance, customers with a broadband connection may be directed to pages with more rich media-formatted content while shoppers with a dial-up connection are sent to a more straightforward products page.

At The Grill Store and More, the most immediate job is developing a content management delivery system that can quickly scale to handle vast amounts of new text and images for In just the first month of operation, the new site added nearly 1.2 million SKUs, which generated dozens of new product pages and more than 1 million new images. Longer term The Grill Store and More plans to add content delivery applications such as viewing merchandise in three dimensions. “How well we can plan and expedite better content management on is a big part of our business plan going forward,” Hackley says. “It won’t be enough just to offer more inventory. We have to package and manage the content in ways that close sales and generate additional cross-selling opportunity.” l





The many ways of getting product data

Whether they’re getting straightforward product updates or sophisticated digital commercials developed and distributed by consumer brand manufacturers, web retailers are relying more on outside third parties to supply content for their e-commerce sites.

For instance, Office Depot Inc., which carries more than 200,000 SKUs online, may use outside content from as many as 100 manufacturers and other third parties to update products and images. Office Deport receives product updates, photos and other rich media-enhanced information such as product demonstrations from Hewlett-Packard Co. and Microsoft Corp. through a third-party platform provided by WebCollage Inc. The flow of new product updates, technical specifications and images is constant. Office Depot takes about five working days to collect the information, edit it to comply with internal standards and work-flow procedures and post it to the web store. “Adding more content is critical,” says Noah Maffitt, director of e-commerce for Office Depot. “Creating content is expensive and we deal with multiple brands. Using more syndicated content, especially for technology products, which are constantly changing, enhances our customers’ shopping experience.”

Creating individual content for a product a retailer is adding to an online inventory can cost $80 to more than $500 per SKU, depending how much internal time and resources are needed and to what lengths the retailer has to go to obtain the initial information, says Steven Roth, program manager at Channel Intelligence Inc., which develops commerce data interchange services for web retailers, manufacturers and others.

Delivery costs for syndicated content vary, but can range from monthly subscription fees of $2,000 to $20,000. Retailers are using more syndicated product information because in many instances the manufacturer picks up the cost of the content creation and delivery.

Content, whether it’s supplied directly by the manufacturer or distributed through a third-party service or platform, is still sent to the retailer in a variety of formats, though XML feeds and XML-enhanced applications are becoming common between retailers and manufacturers.

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