August 23, 2006, 12:00 AM

No more wading around in the water looking for lost balls is celebrating its 10th anniversary with a variety of web site design and functionality enhancements and a faster turnaround time on personalized products, seeking increased customer satisfaction and loyalty.

Back in 1996, the antediluvian days of Internet retailing, starting an e-commerce site, nonetheless a tiny niche e-commerce site, was a serious gamble. When first launched in 1996, it started small, selling high-quality used golf balls plucked from the lakes of golf courses across southern Louisiana. Today it sells new and personalized golf balls and is raking in the green.

Golfers were early adopters of online buying, and online buyers back then were value hunters, says co-founder, president and CEO Tom Cox. “High-quality used golf balls fit the bill.” In 1998 Cox raised the company’s first round of capital from angel investors, which was followed by big sales growth-from $200,000 in 1999 to more than $2 million in 2001. Last year the company grew sales 17% to $6 million compared with 2004’s $5.1 million, according to Internet Retailer estimates.

As part of its 10th anniversary this year,, No. 459 in the Internet Retailer Top 500 Guide to Retail Web Sites, soon will debut a variety of new site changes designed to improve shoppers’ online experience. New features and functionality, all of which will be launched before the end of next month, include improved product images, online previews of custom and personalized products, and easier access to customer service representatives.

“We’re re-launching our custom logo and personalized golf pages to more prominently display our customer support options,” says Brandon Hartness, director of e-commerce. “The purchase of custom logo golf balls for your business, for example, is a very personal experience because it involves your company’s identity; as a result, we are ensuring customers have easy, personal access to a highly trained custom logo specialist to answer their questions or concerns.”

Further, in response to customer demand, the e-retailer has honed its product personalization process to hasten turnaround time, getting personalized “one-unit” orders to customers in no later than two days time.

Ultimately these changes will lead to increased customer satisfaction and loyalty, Hartness adds, which is one of the company’s utmost goals.

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