A cataloger of assisted-living and learning products for the disabled, Enabling Devices had what marketing manager Elizabeth Bell calls an “inadequate online system” since 1997. Last year the Hastings-on-Hudson, NY-based company finally upgraded its Website. Since then online sales have climbed from less than 1% of total revenue to 10%.
After entertaining bids from five technology partners, the $5.5 million Enabling Devices hired New York-based custom application developer AW Systems. Enabling Devices’ then-current site employed an off-the-shelf shopping cart system, says AW Systems president Allan Wellenstein. “Off-the-shelf is inexpensive, but it was sort of like trying to fit a square peg in a round hole.”
Enabling Devices basically offers many of the same core products in different variations, Wellenstein says. “On the old site you had to select the product from a pull-down menu and go through each variance one option at a time, on separate screens.”
The site also required a lot of manual upkeep from Enabling Devices employees, who had to make price updates one product at a time. And even if a customer had ordered online previously, staff still had to look up the customer by name and check his personal ID, because the online customer data was not integrated with the offline information.
AW Systems built a system that includes a feedback mechanism so that information from offline orders is stored as on the Website’s database. “Everything in the short term was done with where Enabling Devices wanted to be in the long term,” Wellenstein says. AW Systems hosts the database at its St. Louis data center, relieving Enabling Devices of the need to purchase and maintain costly servers.
On the front end, AW Systems eliminated the pull-down menus. Now all the variations of a given product appear on the same product page. “We also added an internal search function to help users differentiate from over 800 product offerings,” Wellenstein says. The company also worked with New York-based Web designer Clint Morgan to refine the esthetics of the site.
The results are in
Enabling Devices had first contacted AW Systems in December 2003; 10 months later the company’s online overhaul was complete. “The numbers from the Website have been steadily improving,” Bell says. “With our improved order-taking process and our customers’ ability to easily navigate the system, we hope that those numbers may improve even more.”
Enabling Devices paid $45,000 to AW Systems and $1,800 to Morgan for site improvements. “Companies looking to upgrade their online systems can spend anywhere from $1,000 to $100,000 on improvements,” Wellenstein notes. But he notes that “it’s really all about a technology partnership.”
For instance, Wellenstein says, “if you recognize that there is value in building an ongoing relationship with a technical partner that understands your business, you can make significant increases without having to spend money on marketing.”