From the May 2008 issue of Entrepreneur

How can you give your online customers the same personal attention they'd receive in your retail store? For Seattle ski and outdoor sports equipment retailer Evogear, the answer is the Web 2.0 database tracking and merchandising service behind its freshly redesigned e-commerce site.

 

Mercado On-Demand lets the $11 million retailer serve up online promotions on the fly by keeping tabs on what its customers are searching for and buying. Mercado On-Demand identifies which products need a merchandising boost in both the real world and cyberspace. Case in point: When the Evogear sales team associated a type of Head skis with certain search terms on their website for 30 days, sales of the line jumped 250 percent.

The technology also lets Evogear create a unique display page and online video component for parties and other events it holds in its store, extending its "local" community into California, New York, Texas and the rest of Washington, logging lots of online sales along the way. The store is the heart of Evogear's brand culture while the website is its primary revenue engine, accounting for close to 90 percent of its annual sales.

"You have a more sustainable model when you have a local presence," says Bryce Phillips, 30, who founded Evogear online in 2001 and opened the store almost three years ago. "What we do locally, we project nationally."

Evogear began using Mercado last year as the cornerstone of its third major website redesign. The most visible result came a few months later, when Phillips' merchandising team began showcasing an online gallery of photos, videos and more tied to a special in-store event. Week-over-week sales "improved dramatically" in a period when they usually decline.

By the end of this summer, Evogear expects to see a return on the investment it took to integrate its catalog and customer information with Mercado's technology. After that, Mercado On-Demand is a pay-as-you-go service that can be metered depending on website traffic.

Heather Clancy, a freelance journalist and consultant, has been covering the high-tech industry for close to 20 years. She can be reached at hccollins@mac.com.