Magazine Article | April 1, 2003

Web-Enable B2B And B2C Sales

Source: Innovative Retail Technologies

There isn't a channel that Fitness Quest, Inc. won't market through. In addition to several catalogs, retail partners, and TV infomercials, it operates 15 B2B and B2C Web sites. How does it manage all this content?

Integrated Solutions For Retailers, April 2003

What do supermodel Christie Brinkley, martial arts legend Chuck Norris, and pony-tailed "America's Personal Trainer" Tony Little have in common? If you've got cable, you've probably seen them all on infomercials peddling home fitness equipment. In addition to this commonality, the trio has Fitness Quest, Inc. to thank, at least in part, for the sales success of the home fitness equipment lines they endorse and sell online. Joe Frantz is VP of IT at Fitness Quest, Inc. (Canton, OH) and the architect of the company's multichannel selling and distribution systems strategy.

Many Products, Many Channels
Fitness Quest sells home fitness products, including brands like Gazelle, Total Gym, and Zumba, via direct response mailing, retail stores, home shopping TV, catalogs, and the Internet. Its retail affiliates include The Sports Authority, Dick's Sporting Goods, MC Sports, and Oshman's. Retail sales account for the majority of the company's revenue, with "as seen on TV" and direct response mailers supporting that effort.

Internet-Enabled Fulfillment
For trading partners who are not EDI (electronic data interchange) enabled, Fitness Quest operates a B2B site at "We created the B2B site to enable us to process orders that don't come to us via EDI," says Frantz. "We set a simple goal to eliminate order taking via paper to reduce manual data entry." The Web site is also designed to give retailers and catalog partners access to images, product manuals, warranties, and other such documents; sales history information; and order status. "The site reduces the need for a customer service rep to support customers via phone," says Frantz.

As the Internet began to blossom into a consumer sales channel in the late 1990s, Fitness Quest developed its initial approach to selling online with the assistance of retail technology software developer Purple Cactus (Solon, OH). Fitness Quest's planned e-commerce engine would complement the company's current multichannel order processing system. "Our system could process any order from any sales channel," says Frantz. "If a customer saw a product on TV and placed an order via phone, we could process the order and ship it out from our warehouse the next morning. Our Internet solution needed to meet that same demand."

But with so many Web sites, content management presented a particularly large challenge for the company. "It took us five or six months to develop an e-commerce content development/management toolkit," says Frantz. "We wanted to create something that would help us keep the staff required to maintain and develop a site to a minimum." At the same time, the company wanted to be able to change content almost instantaneously. With the toolkit, even users without HTML knowledge can change wording and graphics in seconds.

Aside from order tracking functions, the toolkit allows the company to determine the effectiveness of the creative content on its Web sites. "If we run a banner advertising campaign, for instance, we want to know its effectiveness," says Frantz. The toolkit tracks the origin of site hits, helping Fitness Quest determine the effectiveness of advertising. Moreover, the company can manage and track keywords used in Internet search engines. "If someone types the keywords 'I want to lose weight' into a search engine and it happens to lead them to our Web site, we can track those keywords that are driving business to us," says Frantz. Conversely, these tracking tools help the company determine when a particular Web promotion or keyword is not working, giving Fitness Quest the opportunity to change or tweak the keywords or change out the promotion's creative content. "We can change keywords or run specials or seasonal sales, etc., on the fly," says Frantz. "We can now make decisions and implement changes based solely on customer feedback."

With the toolkit, Fitness Quest can determine the response to its marketing expenditures and make adjustments as needed. Frantz says while he hasn't monitored his ROI on the content management tool, the fact that it determines his company's ROI on other expenditures and kept staffing demands in check is all the justification he needs. "When you're running banner ads, buying keywords, doing placement of your site among search engines, you want to evaluate what you're spending to see your ROI on that purchase. This tool gives us the ability to manage that," he says.

What's Your Sales Per Click Ratio?
Since piloting the Web development toolkit in the dawn of the Internet age, Purple Cactus has upgraded it and taken it to new levels of functionality. Fitness Quest, for instance, takes advantage of an evaluation tool that shows the company its sales per click, helping the retailer ascertain which products need more promotion or pricing adjustments. "Many e-tailers might brag about a huge volume of visits, but profits depend on the sales, not the visits," reasons Frantz.