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Giggle, a New York City retailer of upscale baby gear, prides itself on having great customer service. So when it became clear the company's website wasn't meeting the high standards founder Ali Wing, 40, set for the business, she knew it was time for an upgrade.
"Anybody who thinks [selling online] is cheap and easy just hasn't done it a lot," says Wing, who launched the website shortly after opening her first location in 2003. "It is 24/7 selling, which means that data always has to be right, products always have to be right, and the site always has to be updated. From an infrastructure perspective--and also an organizational one--we didn't have a platform that could support the demand." So in April, Wing took on the challenging project of upgrading the site. She now has a fully scalable e-commerce platform. The changes are paying off: Year-end sales are expected to exceed $10 million.
Wing is not alone. According to a July 2006 survey by Internet Retailer magazine, 79.3 percent of the retailers, catalogers and web-only merchants surveyed intended to purchase more hardware, software and services this year over last. In addition, 14 percent of virtual merchants planned to spend as much as 50 percent more on upgrading their e-commerce platforms and digital marketing programs.
For Giggle, launching the upgraded site meant switching to a new web development partner--and not just any partner, but one Wing had researched thoroughly. "Upgrading your website is a serious investment," Wing explains. "Spend time making sure you have the right plans in place and the right partners before taking the plunge."
Eric Anderson, director of agency services at White Horse, an interactive marketing agency in Portland, Oregon, agrees that preparation is vital. "Whether an e-commerce platform migration is a walk in the park or the bane of your existence has everything to do with the state of the product database," he says. "Do you have the right images for every product, the right categorizations and associations? Take a [serious] look at the state of your data, and ask e-commerce platform vendors how the migration process will work."
And don't invest a single dollar into launching an upgrade until you've examined your site from the user's perspective, Anderson advises: "There's no guarantee of improvement without first understanding where the stumbling blocks are for users. The types of obstacles your users face--such as product display, search, etc.--can help steer your platform selection."
Melissa Campanelli is a marketing and technology writer in New York City.