Multi-Site Shopping Cart for Brand Name Electronics Store


Multi-Site Retailing can be a boon to product retailers. By creating sites catering to specific customer segments, retailers can communicate with those segments in a language and in a context the customer prefers.

Let's take a large brand name on-line electronics store. Some of the visitors to the site are electronics experts. They understand bandwidth, networks, communication protocols, and even cross product compatibility issues. These customers would love to have a technically oriented web site containing technical documentation that discusses the various issues of product usage and integration. Sure, they want to know what the product does, but they're also interested in how they can program it, network it, or otherwise enhance it. They want to know about the 20% nobody else knows.

At the other end of the spectrum are casual and novice users. These customers want to buy it and have it work. "Just tell me what it does and how much it costs. If I'm interested I'll read the manual later".

Today's shopping carts force retailers to integrate these two customer segments into the same web site. In an effort to accommodate both customer segements, the electronic's retailer keeps the catalog pages simple, giving a snippet about what the product does, and offering a link to learn more. The link contains more information, but not too much, because we don't want to scare anyone. Perhaps there is another link that gives the technician the material they crave.

There are several problems with the approach:

The first problem is web site design:

So as to not intimidate the casual user, the layout and imagery of the web site has to denote something that is easy to use. A non-technical person has to say, "ah-ha, I've got it", and feel like they can find what they're looking for. The look and feel of the site must be somewhat traditional as to not give the impression that on-line electronic stores are only for the technically elite.

Meanwhile, the technically elite tolerate the bland electronics store web site that looks like every other web site. The site doesn't inspire or encourage exploration. To the technologist, it's simply is another dummied down web site.

A second problem is product descriptions and content.

To not run anyone off, product descriptions and content must be put in laymen's terms. The technologist can't even hope to find the information they seek on the home page. Since this web site has to cater to everyone, anything technical has to be hidden away, behind a click or two, and even then the text is predictably bland.

Technologists would love to read content written by knowledgeable, experienced, entertaining people. Such content would inspire and encourage dialogue. Technologist would hang out at the site longer, notice more of the advertisements and other promotional material, and even occassionally buy something they wouldn't have otherwise.

A third problem is service and support

Many web sites provide a phone number or a chat service. Wouldn't it be great if a technically advanced guy could talk to someone who did know how to program it, network it, or otherwise enhance it. Of course, the technologist knows they have a better chance winning the lottery.

If the electronics store created a web site that really did attract advanced users, then it would certainly occur to someone to put truly knowledgeable people on the chat lines.

There are other problems with integrating casual and advanced used in the same on-line electronics store, but hopefully, the point is made. In this particular example, the brand name on-line electronics store is missing an opportunity. For a relatively large customer segment (the technically elite), they didn't distinguish themselves from the competition.

But what are the obstacles to creating this new web site?

The biggest problem is that shopping carts are designed to support one and only one web site. Therefore, if the electronics store wants to create a new web site, they have to make a duplicate copy of their shopping cart engine (source code). That's a pain because everytime there is a bug fix or maintenance upgrade, both shopping cart engines have to be changed. The bigger problem is the database. Since there has to be two shopping carts, there must now be two databases.

Maintaining two or more databases is a real pain. Particularly painful is the product master table. The table is large, complex, and is integrated tightly with other tables. Furthermore, updating a record in the product master table is not a trivial exercise. It takes a knowledgeable person who knows their products and is detailed oriented. The notion of doubling the size of the product master table, and therefore doubling the effort to maintain product data, is too much for some companies to bare. It's far easier to create a monolithic web sites that dummies down to the lowest common denominator.

There is an alternative. If the electronics store purchased a multi-site shopping cart, and if the multi-site shopping cart allowed the electronics store to create multiple web sites without duplicating the shopping cart engine or the database, the primary obstacle to creating multiple web sites would be removed.

The NextLevelShopper Multi-Site Shopping Cart does exactly that. Using NextLevelShopper, the electronics store can have a (theoretically) unlimited number of web sites. Each web site can share the same shopping cart engine and the same database. Plus, each web site can have its own layout, images, content, and even business rules. Using NextLevelShopper, the electronics store could even customize product names, descriptions, and prices for each web site. The electronics store could now economically create a web site catering to the customer segment known as the technically elite.

If you'd like to learn more about how micro-sites, micro-retailing, and multi-site retailing can help your business, we would love to hear from you. Please fill in this contact form and the owner and lead developer of NextLevelObjects will contact you ASAP.

Thank you and we look forward to hearing from you.