Private equity firm Apollo Global Management will take Rackspace private in the all-cash deal.
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But the site also takes unusual steps in meeting other customer needs: A “Contact Manufacturers” page, for instance, lists the phone numbers and e-mail addresses for hundreds of JR.com’s suppliers. “We try to help out our customers as much as we can,” says Jason Friedman, vice president of e-commerce.
“J&R; goes a long way in taking the mystery out of shopping,” says Maris Daugherty, senior consultant at J.C. Williams Group. “It offers tremendous product level content and several options on how to sort search responses including brand, title and price, and the compare function is easy to use and assists visitors in their understanding of some very complicated product specifications.”
But J&R; isn’t sitting still. It recently entered a partnership with Macy’s to operate the consumer electronics section in its flagship Herald Square store in Midtown Manhattan-where a limited product line will be backed by an in-store kiosk that lets shoppers buy any of J&R;’s products through JR.com.
In the first quarter of 2007, J&R; will launch a re-designed JR.com. The new site will provide for more streamlined shopping with fewer clicks in the purchase process, improved site search and navigation, and hundreds of online videos of J&R; store associates demonstrating products.
“We’ll do a lot of things to keep things exciting,” Friedman says.
‘Like the back of my hand’
E-retailers can learn a lot about effective e-commerce site navigation from Palm.com. A shopper who hits the home page of the site immediately receives lists of clear, simple choices to help him decide how to begin drilling down. From there it’s the very same method with each successive drill that gives a shopper ease and confidence-along with numerous detailed accompanying images and data-while finding precisely what he wants in mobile technology.
Along the way, shoppers-domestic and international-are presented in a crisp and uncluttered fashion a mammoth choice of online and downloadable brochures, product specifications, FAQs, technology glossaries, options, product comparisons, footnoted explanations of components and software, related accessories, and much more. It’s an information bonanza on the path to a purchase, with cross-channel support to retail stores. Further, the site caters to personal and business shoppers and presents information and choices in ways that are easily understandable by both information technology professionals and novices. Palm.com also offers a My Model section that customizes shoppers’ online and online navigation experiences based on the hand-held devices they own or are considering.
“It’s a very easy site to navigate,” says Sucharita Mulpuru, senior retail analyst at Forrester Research Inc. “The company deserves credit for this because few manufacturers are as skilled as Palm when it comes to navigating an e-commerce site.”
What’s more, the Owner Resources section on Palm.com is an excellent place for any Palm owner to spend quality time, adds Maris Daugherty, senior consultant at J.C. Williams Group Ltd. “Not only does it have valuable content for new Palm owners, its download section offers a thorough selection of ‘try before you buy’ downloadable applications available in numerous languages. Ultimately, Palm.com is a good example of e-commerce at work and play.”
Clawing its way up
In the rough and tumble world of consumer electronics retailing, price and customer service are the primarily elements of success. Price is easy enough to understand, as low prices will always turn consumers’ heads. Providing quality customer service, however, can be an elusive concept for some retailers to grasp.
Taking a customer-first approach, TigerDirect.com has steadily clawed its way up the ladder since launching sixteen years ago to compete with the likes of industry giants BestBuy and CompUSA. The key to TigerDirect’s rapid ascent is that the retailer knows its customer base: in this case it is, in most cases, price-sensitive consumers who comparison shop and expect same-day shipment when an order is placed.
“Being dedicated to price and customer service is important in this category,” says Patti Freeman Evans, senior analyst, retail industry, at Jupiter Research. “This is a retailer that knows its customers and how to play to them.”
A major part of TigerDirect’s service strategy is to provide detailed content about the products it sells. This content goes beyond product descriptions to include order tracking through the site and a rebate center where shoppers can search for manufacturer rebates. Both sections are clearly marked on the navigation bar for greater ease of use. Shoppers also can sign up for a free e-mail catalog and e-mail alerts about specials.
“TigerDirect makes it simple to navigate their site, understand the offers available and compare products,” Evans says. “They provide the kind of information people need to make a solid purchasing decision.”
On another note, TigerDirect’s merchandising strategy is so effective that it has insulated the retailer from comparisons to larger competitors that aggressively promote online ordering and in-store pick-up-despite the fact it, too, operates bricks-and-mortar locations.
“In-store pick-up is something other multi-channel retailers are heavily promoting, but TigerDirect has shown it can provide what customers want, which is why sales are good,” says Evans.
Given its prowess at servicing the customer, the competition is paying close attention to TigerDirect’s roar.
Catering to customers
YesAsia.com is proof of the age-old retailing principle that success lies in knowing one’s customer and delivering what they want. What sets the retailer apart is its ability to create a sense of Asian community not only in its catalog of products but in its look and feel.
Shoppers can purchase from a catalog that includes Chinese, Japanese, Korean and Western entertainment items, such as CDs DVDs, books, comics and collectibles like concert merchandise. In addition, the site is written in five languages-traditional Chinese, simplified Chinese, Japanese, Korean and English.