Footwear retailer Aerosoles launched its e-commerce Web site with the help of an ASP (application service provider) and continues to reap the rewards.
When the buzzwords of the day were multichannel retailing, everyone needed to make a presence on the e-commerce bandwagon, and despite the Internet shakeout, e-commerce Web sites are still on the forefronts of many retailers' budgets. But for some, it was cost prohibitive to manage the content and maintenance involved in hosting their own Web sites. After standing back from e-commerce for a few years, footwear retailer Aerosoles (Edison, NJ) investigated working with an e-commerce ASP (application service provider). "Traditionally, retailers who can't afford to launch their own sites would use an ASP. But we wanted to move beyond the standard templates ASPs offer and avoid a plain vanilla e-commerce site," said Robert Garris, VP of direct marketing at Aerosoles.
It was important for Aerosoles to maintain a consistent image across its brick-and-mortar, catalog, and online selling channels. To gauge its customer's e-interest, Aerosoles first posted a toll-free number on www.aerosoles.com to satisfy its customers' need for information and the retailer's curiosity. If customers wanted to order new shoes, they could place an order through the catalog call center. "We tracked the response to the toll-free number and determined that if we launched an e-commerce site, it would be self-funding and turn a reasonable profit," Garris said. "But with all the volatility in the e-commerce market and the recent shakeouts, we didn't want to rush into anything headlong."
Launched In Six Weeks, Accessed Through A Portal
Aerosoles wanted to venture into e-commerce with little or no start-up costs, rapid implementation, and a look that enhanced the shopping experience for its customers. After its investigation of various ASPs, the retailer decided to use Escalate Direct from Escalate, Inc. (Redwood Shores, CA). "The ASP model that Escalate offered was attractive because it cost less up front, and we were able to install it in six weeks," Garris said. The retailer is able to maintain consistent imagery and presentation of the brand across its channels by accessing its Web site through an Internet portal. Aerosoles can customize the screens to match its current in-store or catalog promotions and reduces content costs by building off its catalog. "We have been pleased with the way the Web site has been so synergistic with the catalog channel. We are realizing many economies such as product photography and text that we already have for the catalog that can also be placed on the Web site," Garris said.
And although the footwear retailer hasn't found one product line that shines as a strictly online seller, Aerosoles has enjoyed the speed at which it can change its feature products. "The e-commerce site gives us the ability to react to out-of-stocks or inventory surpluses quickly. If we are out of a product, we can remove it from the Web site; if we have an excess of product, we can feature it on the homepage. We can react faster than we can in the stores or in the catalogs," Garris said.
Order Management Integration Benefits Multiple Channels
One of the most difficult aspects of the e-commerce installation was the integration between the Escalate order management software and Aerosoles' catalog order management software from CommercialWare, Inc. (Natick, MA). With some internal work with Escalate, Aerosoles was able to integrate with CommercialWare's retail.dot.commerce. "We are trying to control the customer experience through the look and feel of the site, and eventually we would like to be able to recognize our customers through all of our multiple channels," Garris said. Right now, the Web site orders are taken by the Escalate software and passed to retail.dot.commerce. From there, the orders are sent to the distribution center for order fulfillment. Aerosoles thought Escalate's solution best matched the promotion functionality it already had with its CommercialWare software to keep its online messages consistent throughout its channels. Since it launched its e-commerce site in September of 2001, Aerosoles said the percentage of online sales has consistently exceeded the company's plans.