|Moving from a successful "bricks-and-mortar" retailer to an equally successful "clicks-and- mortar" strategy can be daunting. But recent studies from the University of Texas and the U.S. Department of Commerce predict that e-commerce will comprise 4.4 percent of the U.S. gross domestic product by 2002. Canadian-based book retailer Chapters, Inc. recognized the possibilities that the Internet provides and launched Chapters Online.
Chapters, Canada’s largest book retailer, operates 70 superstores and 243 smaller stores. When the retailer expanded into the online world, the company knew that it had to stick to its original mission of providing a world-class selection emphasizing products and content of interest to Canadians. Chapters designed its site with a focus on Canadian books, music, and movies, with reviews by Canadian critics and Canadian best-seller lists. It also extended the online experience to its retail stores. Its 70 superstores house kiosks that conveniently provide online ordering when a book is out of stock. The company teamed up with established technology leaders Cisco and AT&T (a Cisco Powered Network provider) to maximize time and resources to quickly launch the best possible site. Chapters Online launched its Web site, www.chapters.ca, three months after concept, in April 1999.
|While planning an e-commerce strategy, network reliability and redundancy are crucial for the best customer experience. To address reliability issues, Chapters Online deployed Cisco software to prevent any bottlenecks, giving online shoppers quick access to all areas of the site at all times. To successfully handle redundancy concerns, Chapters erred on the side of caution and added backup systems to ensure uninterrupted service. It knew even the smallest degree of visitor frustration might prompt potential customers to flee the site. To date, the site has yet to experience any downtime.
Today, Chapters Online is Canada’s most popular online retailer. In its holiday quarter, revenue was 2,000 percent higher over the same quarter just one year earlier. In 1999, Chapters sold Canadian-focused merchandise to more than 400,000 online customers. Industry experts say that the company is at least one year ahead of the country’s other online retailers. This example shows that with careful planning and the right alliances, a bricks-and-mortar company can transform itself into an e-commerce powerhouse.
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