Applying best practices from consumer sites, global electronics distributor jacks up site revenue and visitors.

InformationWeek Staff, Contributor

June 12, 2009

3 Min Read

Beth Ely Steve Phillips We also explored the unique elements we needed to add based on our business and customers' needs. For example, we decided to:

  • Return product search results based on supply and availability. We wanted to steer our customers toward products that are readily available, are easy to obtain, and aren't slated to be discontinued. We programmed the search engine to display products that meet those criteria first. To do that, we connected our extensive inventory management systems and part databases with our search engine to provide customers with accurate availability and supply chain information.

  • Re-examine our approach to promotional information. From our surveys, we heard loud and clear from our customers that they don't want marketing or advertising on the site. However, we still wanted to make sure customers have access to part-related educational tools. We decided to include separate tabs with the detailed part descriptions that customers can click on if they want to watch a video on the product, view data sheets, or learn more about design kits and reference designs. This approach allowed us to integrate product promotion and complementary services into the customer's part search in a way that provides value-added information rather than unrelated marketing.

  • Create a shopping list. Our customers often have an extensive list of parts they need to build their design, called a bill of materials (BOM). Most of our customers keep this "shopping list" in an Excel spreadsheet. We now let them submit their Excel spreadsheet to our site, which will then search for all the parts listed and provide the customer with a spreadsheet that includes links to all the possible parts and their availability.

The Takeaways
Critical to the success of the project was the extent to which our business and IT professionals engaged with each other as a single team. We held workshops with both business and IT pros to decide which capabilities should be added to the site, and the team held regular meetings throughout the project. Additionally, each team member provided a go/no-go decision before the site officially launched, ensuring everyone owned the overall result.

Our new e-commerce site, featuring more than 3.5 million electronic components, took two years to develop and deploy. We leveraged technologies from Omniture (Web analytics), Endeca (search engine), Vignette (content management), and WebSphere (commerce engine and integration) to achieve our goal of an e-commerce site that marries the best of the consumer world with the unique needs of our customers and industry.

We're continuing to add functionality based on customer feedback. We have more to do, but the results tell us that our customers already like what they see. So far, we've seen a 75% annual increase in e-commerce revenue and a 50% annual increase in site visitors.

GlobalCIO Steve Phillips is CIO of Avnet Inc.
Beth Ely is senior VP of Avnet Express.

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