IN LATE 1997, ALGAR BULL COMPUTERS & COMmunications, a major Brazilian technology firm, invested US$600,000 to launch online sales and distribution of computer networking equipment. The business-to-business site, or "webstore," moves big-ticket items made by such global giants as 3Com, Cisco, Lexmark and Novell over the Internet to resellers.
Web sales got off to a slow start: many Internet shoppers complained that the home page was ugly and confusing to use. As a result, Algar Bull spent another $200,000 last year to overhaul the site's look and add more than a dozen category icons that customers can click on to order different types of products. "We had to make navigating as easy as possible," says Elaine Pimenta, marketing coordinator for the network division.
Algar Bull's Pimenta says after the home-page reforms, the webstore reached 2,000 registered customers. And although she declines to release sales figures, she says the store now accounts for 30% of the networking division's revenues, up from 10% just last September. "Each month, we double our orders," she says. Employees that once were generalists fielding telephone orders have been retrained to specialize online in specific product lines.
The webstore delivers its products by air or land within 12-24 hours...