Magazine Article | November 16, 2006

Can A Streamlined Web Site Improve Your Sales?

Source: Innovative Retail Technologies

A footwear importer and e-tailer upgrades its online store and increases sales by 30%.

Integrated Solutions For Retailers, December 2006

Not long ago, St. Louis-based footwear importer and e-tailer Diba Imports was facing an obstacle with its Web site: The solution it had chosen to support its e-commerce initiative was not meeting its expectations. This was not the first time Diba Imports had such problems; in fact, it tried five different e-commerce solutions in five years, without success.

What’s more, the stakes in the company’s online storefront challenge were high. For one thing, the Web site had become a popular source for men and women who favor fashion shoes featured under the brand names Diba, Bronx, Luichiny, and Blink footwear. A lack of human resources complicated the issue. Because only 2 of 33 full-time associates employed by Diba Imports work in the e-commerce department, there was very little IT and Web site design help available to undertake another e-commerce change.

In early 2005, Diane Butrus, Diba Imports COO, attended the Microsoft Convergence Conference to shop for a solution that would enable the company to more efficiently manage its online store while integrating and streamlining front and back end processes. Butrus also sought a more user-friendly application than had been used in the past.

After evaluating several solutions, Butrus chose the StoreFront platform from LaGarde. The fact that the vendor could handle all technology implementation, as well as design the requisite easy-to-navigate, yet feature-rich Web site and host the solution in an application service provider (ASP) format influenced Butrus’ decision. 

Two-Phase Implementation

For migration to the new platform to occur quickly and without downtime, Diba Imports opted for a two-phase implementation schedule. The first phase, which occurred in May 2005, involved configuring the Web site and enabling customer traffic/transactions.

The platform allows Diba Imports to showcase an unlimited number of products, which may be added to the online store by importing data and images from existing databases or delimited files. Several user-friendly features were built in to the solution. For example, consumers can expedite their search for specific types of footwear by using drop-down menus for brands carried and then for specific footwear categories within brands, such as boots and sandals. The site includes links that display large product images and  detailed descriptions of sale items, plus a utility that stores a  “wish list” of desired styles. Users can also e-mail merchandise descriptions to friends accompanied by personal messages.

For operations, the solution has an e-mail alert feature that lets the e-tailer know when an order has been placed. It also includes an advanced inventory tracking feature that permits the company to monitor inventory and communicate pertinent information to consumers. Order fulfillment tools facilitate the management of incoming orders by tracking orders that have been paid for and/or shipped, generating packing slips, and entering shipment tracking numbers available to consumers on the Web site. Sales reporting tools produce sales summary and product reports.

“Because the software is delivered in an ASP model and therefore requires no IT staff for operation, it immediately reduced Diba Imports’ IT time along with the need for ongoing administrative support,” Butrus says. It also had a positive effect on sales.

Little Downtime, More Sales

“We’ve seen a 30% increase in sales since implementation,” Butrus notes. “The site has rarely required IT support, and we’ve had  little disruption or downtime in operations.”

Based on this initial success, Diba Imports proceeded with the second phase of the rollout this past July. Using development tools provided as part of the StoreFront package, the vendor built an interface between the e-tailer’s Web site and the company’s Microsoft Dynamics GP (formerly Microsoft Dynamics Great Plains) back office system. The object was to create an easily managed fulfillment and accounting process to better accommodate higher online volumes.

“Our Web site now pushes order and customer information directly into Great Plains,” Butrus observes. “And, we’re automatically synchronizing price changes, inventory levels, and shipping tracking numbers. The integration between StoreFront and GP has made managing the online store and the business much easier. We’ve grown from a distribution company, to a small online store, to a fully integrated B2C e-commerce business, and the technology has enabled that transition.”