April 8, 2009, 12:00 AM

Musician’s Friend’s latest gig: Build up its e-commerce infrastructure

Despite the bad economy, Musician’s Friend is going ahead with plans to bolster its web platform, says CEO Craig Johnson. So far in 2009 Musician’s Friend has consolidated three e-commerce platforms into two.

Despite the bad economy, Musician’s Friend Inc. is going ahead with plans to build up its e-commerce infrastructure, CEO Craig Johnson tells Internet Retailer.

So far in 2009, the direct marketer of musical instruments and related merchandise has consolidated the operation of its six e-commerce sites–MusiciansFriend.com, GuitarCenter.com, Music123.com, WoodwindandBrasswind.com, Musician.com and MusicArts.com–from three internally designed and maintained e-commerce platforms into two.

Musician’s Friend, an arm of Guitar Center Inc. and No. 39 in the Internet Retailer Top 500 Guide, also recently redesigned and commerce-enabled MusicArts.com, an e-commerce site that caters to professionals and music hobbyists. “We’re continuing to make the investment in infrastructure which at the end of the day needs to pay off in better customer satisfaction,” says Johnson. In the last two years, Musician’s Friend has also replaced its original 250,000-square-foot distribution facility in suburban Kansas City, KS, with another facility with about 700,000 square feet. “We’re doing a lot to plan ahead and keep a watchful eye on our cost structure,” says Johnson.

The effort to improve web site performance and customer service is paying dividends, says Johnson. Web sales for Musician’s Friend in 2008 increased by 12.8% to $530.6 million from $470.5 million in 2007.

MusiciansFriend.com is also attracting more visitors and shoppers, which is resulting in longer average sessions. In 2008, MusiciansFriend.com averaged 7.6 million unique visitors per month, compared with 7 million in 2007, the company says. The average 2008 visitor session is also now about 14 minutes vs. 13 minutes in 2007, says web site measurement firm Hitwise. “We’re spending a lot of time working on the plumbing and trying to understand what makes a customer tick,” says Johnson.

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