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A single superstore e-retailer flexes its web wing

By: Paul Demery | September 29, 2011

Abt Electronics Inc., a family-owned business known in the Chicago metropolitan area for its single superstore selling consumer electronics and household appliances, is constantly striving to drive its e-commerce site to greater heights. “We’re pushing our e-commerce business because we believe in e-commerce,” says co-president Jon Abt.

Putting its money where its mouth is, the retailer continuously makes technology upgrades to Abt.com, No. 151 in the Internet Retailer Top 500 Guide, with new enhancements added about every 30 days, Abt says. The payoff, he adds, is that the shopping experience consumers have at Abt.com compares well with the 75-year-old Abt retail store in terms of shopping ease and customer service. That’s putting e-commerce sales on a track to account for 25% of total sales this year, up from 20% last year, Abt says.

Among Abt.com’s recent upgrades are a redesigned checkout process and a product recommendation engine, both of which were built in-house. The recommendation engine pulls information on purchase activity from the Abt store’s point-of-sale system as well as from Abt.com; as consumers add products to their carts on the web site, the engine makes cross-selling and up-selling recommendations based on the past online and store purchase activity of all Abt customers.

The checkout process provides extensive shopping information on each page, including verification that an ordered product is in stock, the running price total including shipping and taxes, and the estimated delivery time for the shopper’s chosen shipping method. Without leaving a checkout page, shoppers can also click to get additional information, such as details on Abt’s white-glove delivery service, which provides in-home set-up of a purchased product and the removal of packaging materials.

The retailer builds most of its e-commerce technology in-house with a team of about 12 programmers, Abt says.

Among the technology applications it has deployed from other companies is Internet-hosted live chat software from Bold Software LLC.

Customers who engage in live chat sessions spend more per order than those who don’t, Abt says. “We estimate we get a 10-20% lift because of live chat,” he says. Abt Electronics doubled its number of live chat seats last year to 30 from 15, which means it can have up to 30 customer service or sales agents communicating at the same time with customers via live chat sessions.

To further build on its reputation for customer service, Abt Electronics this week deployed a customer feedback application from Kampyle Ltd., which provides a tab on each web page to let shoppers enter comments about Abt’s products and service. Kampyle’s system is designed to let retailers pull reports on customer feedback data to learn, for example, what customers think about a particular model of high-definition TV.

Although the Kampyle deployment was too new to comment on, Abt says it fits his company’s strategy of making its e-commerce site as shopper-friendly as its physical store. “Service is what differentiates us as a retailer,” he says..

 

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