Yule Be Sorry

You Gotta Plan

LeapFrog wasn't the only dotcom unprepared for the holiday rush. For many netpreneurs, Christmas 1999 was anything but merry. Delivery problems and tech glitches were rampant for both large and small e-tailers-and so were negative responses from customers and the media.

Stacie S. McCullough, an e-commerce analyst at Forrester Research, says the main reason so many companies experienced problems is because they expanded their systems right before the Christmas rush-not leaving enough time to ensure smooth operation. Her advice: If you're planning to build a new site with new products, new categories, more graphics and an expanded back-end as late as this month, better hold off on those plans until after the new year. "If you haven't already experimented with running tests, running orders or checking to see what might happen during the Christmas rush, you should just stay with what you've got," she says. "Just focus on getting the product out." Wait until January to focus on launching a new site. "When you're working with a few hundred customers versus a few hundred thousand, you can work out all the kinks," she continues.

Taking into account last year's mistakes, many dotcoms started preparing early this year to ensure their sites could scale upward to meet the upcoming holidays. Marggraff, for example, says that LeapFrog began upgrading its site late last year and is now ready to handle the 2,000 percent increase in orders it expects at year-end. Says Marggraff, "In response to last year's unsolicited success, we've developed very strong e-commerce support."

First, LeapFrog upgraded its Web site to 10 times the bandwidth and three times the processing capacity it had in 1999. The company also substantially increased its customer support internally and now outsources call support to a 24/7 call center. And LeapFrog also has a new warehouse and a new fulfillment center.

Melissa Campanelli is a technology writer in Brooklyn, New York, who has covered technology for Mobile Computing & Communications and Sales & Marketing Management magazines. You can reach her at mcampanelli@earthlink.net.

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This article was originally published in the October 2000 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Yule Be Sorry.

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