DODGEVILLE, WIS. (03/23/2000) - Known primarily for consumer sales of apparel through its print catalog and the Web, billion-dollar retailer Lands' End Inc. is pursuing an aggressive strategy to boost sales to businesses by letting them order merchandise online from customized Web pages.
To sell on the Web to businesses, Lands' End realized it would have to provide a customer-specific Web view displaying only the merchandise the corporate employee was allowed to buy, along with the prearranged volume pricing.
This requirement makes business-to-business sales far more complex on the Web than landsend.com's business-to- consumer sales, in which prices and merchandise are the same for everyone. Business sales aren't wholly new for Lands' End. Several dozen companies spend about $140 million each year at Lands' End for clothing with corporate logos.
But after some success making specialized Web sites for General Motors' Saturn division and Carolina Power & Light, the clothing retailer says it is ready to provide custom catalogs to all its corporate customers. The Web site set up for Saturn, for instance, serves 8,000 employees. Lands' End is also setting up a store for use by electronics retailer RadioShack.
"It's done as a free service, and we create each site separately," says Mike Grasee, director of Internet business development, adding that the technical work is being done in-house with help from IBM. Lands' End consults with each business customer to define the content and establish which employees are allowed to buy directly online.
As a security measure, "some companies may want to restrict access to the site only to employees coming through the company intranet," Grasee notes. This is done by checking and verifying the IP address of each Web visitor. Lands' End expects to have more than two dozen Web stores ready by year-end.
Later this spring, the retailer expects to offer Web-based real-time interactive customer support. This will be done using Cisco's WebLine collaboration software, which lets customer-support representatives guide shoppers through Web pages while simultaneously carrying on a phone discussion.
The service is already available to Lands' End's consumer customers.
In addition to the custom Web development for business, Lands' End is looking to make sure its Web business catalogs will work with procurement management software from Ariba and Commerce One.
Ariba and Commerce One offer software to let corporations set up order approval processes and restrict the nature and price of products employees can buy online. Ariba's product is called PunchOut, and Commerce One's is called Round Trip, Grasee says.
Lands' End is adding the Ariba and Commerce One API sets to the company's business Web sites. The APIs "allow us to trade the shopping data back and forth from the Web site to the Ariba or Commerce One network," Grasee says.
The effort is intended to inspire loyalty from business customers so that they keep buying Lands' End apparel and other goods.
"Our customers want this ease in online purchasing, so we're going to do this level of personalization," Grasee says.