ANDREW TRAVERS, Dir. of Operations, The Orvis Co., Manchester, VT
From an operations perspective, the Web channel is treated as an enhancement to our already established direct-to-consumer catalog channel. Our Web site interfaces nicely with our order entry and inventory management system, and eventually, our distribution operation. Web customer orders are grouped with similar kinds of catalog orders for efficient handling through our system. I do believe that the Web customer interface has created a “glass house” effect, where customers are now able to get closer to the operation and see into how efficiently their orders are processed. This additional customer influence has helped us to focus on reducing order dwell time.
IRWIN LANGER, Dir. of Operations, Gardener’s Supply Co., Burlington, VT
Gardener’s Supply has had a Web site since 1995, and we’ve seen our business shift in numerous ways. From the operational perspective, the impacts on the customer contact center and inventory control have been some of the most dramatic. The Internet as an ordering mode now represents 20%-25% of our orders, while creating a whole new set of service options and benchmarks.
The complexity of demand forecasting has also increased. When the Internet was 5% of sales the demand was covered by the expected “forecast variances.” Now that it’s grown, we need to plan better for the mode. The more dynamic and interactive nature of the Internet has created the need for additional tools beyond the “static” catalog response curves. On the flip side, clearance pages and push e-mails have been an effective way to move long inventory.
DAVID HOCHBERG, VP, Public Affairs, Lillian Vernon Corp., Rye, NY
Selling online has lowered costs for our company. Since fewer phone representatives are needed to take phone orders, and there is a diminished need for order entry of mail orders, our administrative expenses are lower. For customer service inquiries, we encourage our customers to use e-mail, which has a lower transactional cost than the telephone or mail. The Web also gives us more flexibility in scheduling staff.
GEORGE EAMMON, President, Into the Wind Inc., Boulder, CO
Sales have increased overall; we’ve seen moderate growth in sales in the last few years and a fairly large shift to our Web site. You can take those two realities and draw conclusions. Business has switched to the Web, or we would have been way down if we hadn’t created new business on the Web — I have no way of telling which of those two is true.
BOBBIE GOLDSTEIN, President, Country Casual, Gaithersburg, MD
I think the Web has given people a chance to see what the catalog is actually like. Even if people do go and look at the site and it’s pretty complete, they still are requesting the catalog, but they basically have an idea of what they’re getting into. We’ve had people who have ordered and they haven’t had a catalog. They’ve just gone on the Web site and given the order over the phone. It’s not that many people, but it has helped with exposure.
DARYL BUNN, Pres./Founder, Winright’s, Jacksonville, FL
If you don’t have a Web presence, it is an indication of your company. I personally buy a lot over the Web, and I am surprised that other people I ask don’t, but they’re certainly going there to get information. I would say any company that doesn’t have a Web site is making a grave error simply because of name presence. The first piece [of art] that we sold was through our Web site. One of our artists was invited to participate in a show in Beijing, China. The only way they could have found out about him was through the Web.