April 4, 2011, 4:27 PM

Market America plugs in a technology upgrade from Shop.com

The acquisition gives Market America better site search and expedited checkout.

Lead Photo

Market America CEO JR Ridinger

Now that its acquisition of Shop.com is complete, Market America Inc. is finishing up the first phase of a three-part technology integration plan that will make the online retailer and marketplace a much more diversified e-commerce company, says CEO JR Ridinger.

Market America, No. 54 in the Internet Retailer Top 500 Guide , announced plans to acquire Shop.com, a shopping comparison site, for an undisclosed amount in December and completed the deal in mid-January.

Since then Market America  has devised a three-part integration plan designed to help the company expand deeper into Europe, adopt a more comprehensive social media strategy and utilize an e-commerce platform with advanced features such as better site search and more personalized product recommendations. “It would have taken us years to purchase or develop the advanced e-commerce technology we acquired in the Shop.com deal,” says Ridinger. “We have always been very good with customer acquisition and retention and Shop.com has really advanced site search, search engine marketing and product recommendation technology. Together that combination gives us a lot more synergy to go out and acquire more customers and merchants.” Market America, which grew web sales about 3.4% to $332.2 million in 2010 from $321.3 million in 2009, aims to complete the integration by the end of 2012.

Market America will complete the first phase of integrating the Shop.com technology onto its platform by August, says chief operating officer Marc Ashley. MarketAmerica.com is now being  updated with new features such as Shop.com’s advanced site search.

In turn Shop.com is being updated with Market America’s “Paid to Shop” program that awards customers 2% to 50% back on all purchases made on MarketAmerica.com and its sister sites, says Ashley. The cash-back offer is good on purchases of more than 35 million products available on MarketAmerica.com, including Market America’s own branded products and items offered on the site by thousands of retailers including The Home Depot Inc., Target Corp. and Saks Fifth Avenue. “We now have a platform capable of handling five times the traffic we currently support,” says Ridinger. “Shop.com was pretty good at finding and driving traffic to the site, but their problem was retention. Now that we’ve added ‘Paid to Shop’ we are developing the right financial model for that site.”

During the second and third phases of the technology implementation plan MarketAmerica.com and Shop.com will be merged into a single e-commerce domain: Shop.com. That’s projected for mid-2012. The merged site will be updated with a feature that gives customers the option to sign in once and simultaneously shop multiple Market America sites, a streamlined shopping cart and a more sophisticated personalized product recommendation engine, says Ashley. Once the consolidated technology is in place Market America next year will also roll out advanced search and streamlined shopping to its e-commerce sites in the United Kingdom and launch more personalized social media campaigns on Facebook. “The acquisition of Shop.com will get us much faster to the finish line of where we want to be,” says Ridinger.

By combining its personalized and social shopping model with the comparison shopping model of Shop.com, Market America expects to eventually build a $1 billion-plus e-commerce business, says Ridinger.

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