April 30, 2009, 12:00 AM

Targeting Tech

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Such help can ease the decision process, he adds. Economic downturn or not, Internet retailers can still benefit from a plethora of technology and service offerings. The hard part is choosing the ones that best address a retailer’s most pressing needs without exceeding closely watched budgets.


Coffee retailer gives tech vendors a wake-up call

When it comes to the technology behind selling coffee online, Ben Kirshner wants the best of both worlds. For his basic e-commerce platform including the shopping cart, he likes having direct control over the software code, and so goes with technology developed by his in-house programmers on Microsoft Corp.’s ASP.net platform.

But because it would take too much time for his staff to build all the features he needs to operate CoffeeForLess.com, Kirshner, CEO of parent company CoffeeServ Inc., has also deployed several commercial applications in such areas as live chat, customer reviews and site security.

Before installing an outside application he puts it to the test. “I like to pre-classify all technology applications as things that lift conversion rates,” Kirshner says. “We’ll test different models of each application and see which gives us the better bang for the buck. It may cost extra time and resources, including a beta test fee, but it’s worth it because the one we choose we’ll have for a long time.”

Beta test fees can run thousands of dollars but vary widely and are generally offered to testers at a discount off the deployment price.

In recent years, CoffeeForLess has chosen several technology vendors, in most cases after putting their technology up against that of competing vendors. In some cases, it went with high-end systems like site search and navigation from SLI Systems Inc.; in others, it chose relatively low-price alternatives after realizing they produced conversion rates comparable with more costly applications. Among its lower-price choices have been site performance testing from AlertBot, security certification from Starfield Technologies Inc. and Google Analytics.

CoffeeForLess.com also offers live chat from LivePerson Inc. on every product page; Sitebrand behavioral targeting personalization software; McAfee security certification, and PowerReviews customer ratings and reviews.

“We have seen an increase in conversion rates and a return on investment from using all of these tools and services,” Kirshner says.

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