Back to school e-commerce

With just a few months to go before the all-important back-to-school season, Montreal-based handbag and luggage company The Bentley Group was in need of a major upgrade to its e-commerce site.

“We didn’t actually have a problem as much as we were stuck in a situation where we had a very outdated Web site,” said Jamie Schreter, director of e-commerce and marketing with Bentley.

Enter Culver City, Calif.-based e-commerce software provider Magento Inc., who, along with Toronto-based partners Demac Media and Peer 1 Hosting, created Bentley’s new site in time for the rush. Demacdesigned and implemented a solution based on Magento’s e-commerce software, with Peer 1 providing hosting for Bentley in its Toronto data centre.

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Schreter took on his role at Bentley in March 2011 and led the task of finding a new platform on which to build a stronger site where the company could increase sales. “I knew that if there was any player that you wanted to go speak to, it was Magento,” he said.

The old e-commerce site wasn’t easy to navigate, and management was also a frustration with even a simple update proving a complex task. Scott Dahlgren, head of channel sales for Magneto, said the vendor’s subscription-based Magento Enterprise platform addresses those issues and its open source roots make it easy to add functionality via partnering.

“The end result for merchants is much lower cost and a lot of flexibility,” said Dahlgren.

The back-to-school rush

Through Magento, Schreter met with Demac’s CEO and founder, Matthew Bertulli. Demac faced a tight deadline, with the site’s completion aimed for early August. When working with a company that has been around as long as Bentley, some of its processes can be old, Bertulli said. The company was missing a lot of data on its Web site that it would need to compete on the same level as other retailers online, such as marketing and merchandising information.

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In store, for example, salespeople can give customers information such as whether a bag is carry-on approved or its size and weight. “You need to give the user that experience (online),” Bertulli said. “We had to give them a lot of guidance.”

Furthermore, as Bentley is a Quebec-based company and sells across Canada, having a site in both English and French was also critical—which meant doing everything twice. Once all the information was there, Demac was able to create a site where all the specifications for Bentley’s products would be visible more easily.The service level that Bentley received from Demac was critical, Schreter said. The new site went live in Quebec late at night. Even though Bertulli could see the site up and running in Ontario, he stayed up and available via Skype to Schreter until he could see it running. That made a major difference to him, Schreter said.

Hosting the online shop

With e-commerce in particular, if a site isn’t fast and reliable, a customer will just walk (or click) away, said Tamara Backus, director of outbound sales for Peer 1. “They’re just going to go away and purchase somewhere else,” she said.

Recommending Peer 1 as the hosting partner was a simple choice for Bertulli. “We know that they’re rock solid,” said Bertulli. “It’s an intangible. Being down for even one minute, it does equate to dollars lost.”

The hosting company provided the database and Web servers for the deal, operating on its FastFiber Network. Peer 1 also guarantees 100 per cent uptime to its customers. “We put our money behind our SLA,” said Backus.

“The performance of our site couldn’t be better,” Schreter said. “The hosting provider is kind of like the guy who works in the background. You don’t want to know he’s there.”

Now, Bentley’s team is able to make changes within minutes, Schreter said. Its content management system is much easier to use and, from a front-end standpoint, it is now much easier for customers to find what they’re looking for.

Following back to school, Bentley did experience improved sales online, Schreter said. “I think that Bentley is in line for some terrific success,” he said. “We recognize that we’re not going to get there alone.”

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Harmeet Singh
Harmeet Singh
Harmeet reports on channel partner programs, new technologies and products and other issues relevant to Canada's channel community. She also contributes as a video journalist, providing content for the site's original streaming video. Harmeet is a graduate of the Carleton University School of Journalism.

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