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Moving your eCommerce platform to another one

May 3, 2005

For the past three or four years, outdoor clothing eCommerce retailer Ex Officio endured the severe limitations of its outdated eCommerce platform. Designed on an old version of Microsoft Commerce Server, "the application provided only a manual process for something that should have been fully automated," says Chad Luellen, the site's e-commerce manager.

After shopping for a new platform, the Portland, Oregon-based firm chose BusinessFlow, made by Florida-based MainStreet Commerce.

Ex Officio chose MainStreet, Luellen says, because "it was built from the group up" meaning it could be customized for Ex Officio's specific needs. Additionally, it was highly Web services enabled.

Luellen also liked the price. MainStreet's base cost is $15,000, with an additional 10 percent annual license fee. Compared with similar packages, Luellen says, the software was so inexpensive that Ex Officio's CFO was leery that MainStreet could actually deliver.

"It was way low," he says. The distinguishing feature of MainStreet, says MainStreet Commerce CEO Mike Sandler, is that it's "packaged software that's highly configurable." It can be configured by the buyer, a third party tech company, or by MainStreet itself.

MainStreet Commerce will provide any number of support services, ranging from mere tech support to completely running a company's e-commerce operation. The fee for these secondary services can range from $10-80,000, Sandler says.

For Ex Officio, MainStreet set up the platform. Ex Officio's move to a new platform reinvigorated the company's e-commerce efforts.

"They basically took anything that seemed repetitive and made it just a click," Luellen says. "They took our existing site, and without making any major modifications, plugged in all their Web services."

Setup took about 3 months. Ex Officio chose to use the MainStreet platform on an ASP basis it was the less expensive option, Luellen says.

MainStreet handles most of the administration of the site's back-end, but Ex Officio does shopper interface customization in-house. The site's personnel updates style sheets and content pages.

The site's customer resource management tools the interface that phone reps use is now built into the platform. About 30 to 50 percent of Ex Officio's orders come through the phone, and for these order takers. "There's a great intuitive order entry system, with tracking built in," Luellen says. The site's employees hardly needed instruction to use its tools, he says.

When inventory levels changes, making some items unavailable, the site is automatically updated. "We move inventory in our ERP system to the warehouse, and MainStreet pulls that information in."

Site employees can log into the system through a Web browser, which allows them to log in from home or on the road.

Ex Officio is setting up its first retail store, which will include an in-store kiosk. The MainStreet software will be able to mark those orders as originating from the retail outlet.

Having gone live with the system in November of 2004, the process of tweaking goes on, Luellen says. "We're still in the process of figuring out how we want things to work, but it's been fantastic."

Source: eCommerce Guide

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