Following 14 months of deliberation, national electronics and computer retailer Dick Smith Electronics (DSE) has gone live with a comprehensive e-commerce Web site trading around 12,000 items in the DSE inventory. At a development cost in excess of $50,000, this includes nearly 5000 products and services that would fall into the computer and communications category.
The new site (www.dse.com.au) was constructed in partnership with prominent Web development company Zivo which boasts clients such as Microsoft, Mercedes-Benz and Coles-Myer. It went live in beta form last Monday. Control has now been handed over to DSE with daily maintenance at the discretion of the advertising department.
Zivo's executive director, Martin Lindstrum said complex issues needed to be addressed in developing DSE's site which is one of the largest in Australia by number of products on offer. He indicated the major hurdles encountered were in linking DSE's mammoth AS/400-based product database -- consisting of some 20,000 products -- to Microsoft's Back Office tools, SQL Server (V6.5) and Site Server (V3).
As well as being able to place orders from an extensive online catalogue, consumers can now design and purchase the DSX-branded PCs and notebooks sold by DSE and access all sorts of current technical and product information.
"With this Web site, our aim was to make every Net-connected computer a virtual Dick Smith store," said Lindstrum. "It is a different e-commerce site to what you normally see. It was an enormous project to get all the products on the site and address security."
The other major objectives from this project, according to Lindstrum, were in making the site easy to navigate and administrate. "Consumers don't want to wait 45 seconds for downloads every time they look at a product. They want to immediately get the facts and buy products," he said.
"Our experience shows poor navigation to be the key reason for not getting sales success from an e-commerce Web site. "If a customer cannot get to where they want to quickly they will not hang around. This site is very quick and easy to get around."
Meanwhile, Lindstrum states current trends show retailers need to change up to 90 per cent of their Web site content every month.
"To compete and respond to demand and supply fluctuations, Web-masters needs to be constantly changing information on their pages," he said.
"The real 'wow' factor from this project is that it is focused on making sales and being rapidly updated. For consumers, it is fast and functional to use and they can get a huge array of product and information."
Rex Callaghan, DSE's technical services and product development manager, said the e-commerce site has already been taking orders. He thought it would revitalise a strong mail order business that has "shrunk" under recent retail expansion. DSE's all-state chain of stores now includes 90 owned by the company and a further 54 regional franchises.
All Web-sourced DSX PC orders will be dispatched from undisclosed "prominent local assemblers" with other orders handled from the central mail-order warehouse. Flat rates for delivery apply to all capital cities depending on weight and method of delivery which can be nominated from the Web site.
Indicating the Web site would not be detracting from sales at individual DSE outlets, Callaghan said: "One of the site's major functions is still to expose products consumers can go and buy from their local store.
"While our past sites haven't had this sort of ordering capability, our experience from the number of hits on certain pages is that the main use for this sort of site is still to obtain product information," he said.