TJX goes multichannel at last

Part of the fun of shopping at off-price stores is the thrill of the hunt for a great bargain, which is also part of the fun of shopping online. That’s in part why Framingham, MA-based TJX Cos., the parent company of T.J. Maxx and HomeGoods, launched transactional Websites for the two retail chains in September.

TJX enlisted Ann Arbor, MI-based Fry, an e-commerce design, development, and services provider, to create the sites. The previous incarnations of the sites provided only information about the stores and their products, with space to enter an e-mail address to receive sales promotions and offers, says Fry president/founder David Fry. TJX, which also owns the Marshall’s off-price retail chain, “saw the growth of e-commerce and felt the opportunity was right to sell to their type of customer,” Fry says. TJX targets middle-income and upper-middle-income women who are both fashion-conscious and value-conscious.

To re-create on the Web the in-store excitement of “hunting for treasures,” Fry used a search engine from Cambridge, MA-based Endeca Technologies that allows customers to browse products by brand, size, and price, among other options. The technology, Fry says, gives shoppers a similar browsability as in the stores.

The sites also use technology from Novato, CA-based provider Scene7 that uses dynamic image rendering to allow shoppers to zoom in on product pictures and look closely at the fabric’s texture, how it’s sewn, or what a button looks like.

Watertown, MA-based technology consulting firm Molecular handled the visuals of the sites, including the implementation of single-screen checkout, which allows shoppers to make changes to their order without leaving their shopping cart.

The merchandise challenge

Because they sell manufacturer overstocks and remainders, T.J. Maxx and HomeGoods have limited quantities of merchandise and generally cannot replenish their stock of a specific item. To deal with the supply chain challenges inherent in selling ever-changing lots of merchandise, Fry customized its open commerce platform (OCP) framework for Websites to create a flexible product workflow that meets the content management requirements of both sites. A live inventory feed for the Websites dictates what is available on the two sites; when an item is sold out, it is automatically taken off the site. Shoppers at both sites can return products bought online to a store or by shipping them back to addresses provided on the sites.

According to Fry, response to the two Websites has been positive. “The most important thing was that people know how T.J. Maxx feels in the store and that they feel at home on the Website,” says Fry. “It seems that’s been achieved based on the feedback they are getting from customers.”

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