Keeping up with innovation keeps smaller retailers in the game

June 13, 2016 04:04 PM

Smaller retailers must, on a regular basis, invest in technology that pleases customers if they want to stay competitive.

Steve Elkins, president of knitting and crocheting supplies retail chain Webs—America’s Yarn Store, told attendees at the Internet Retailer Conference & Exhibition last week that as shoppers’ expectations continue to rise, retailers have to make sure their online presence stands out.

“The customer expectation never ends,” he said. “When you’re, customers expect you to have all the bells and whistles.”

Webs’ online store ranks No. 691 in the Internet Retailer 2016 Second 500 Guide. The company began selling online in 1999 and developed its first true e-commerce site in 2002. It launched its first site with e-commerce platform provider WebLinc in 2008. Next month, the company will unveil a redesigned site built on a new e-commerce platform from WebLinc. The new site will feature tools to narrow search results, larger product images, and adapts to fit the size of the device it is being viewed on. It is the fourth replatforming in the company’s digital history.

With so much pressure to get the business right online, Elkins said retailers should plan site upgrades far in advance.

"When looking to replatform your website, start 12 months before you think you need to start,” he said. “Launch when it makes sense. We’re going to launch at the lowest point in our season so we’re going to have the lowest risk if something goes wrong.”

Because something could go wrong, midmarket retailers want to make sure they have someone with experience managing replatforming a site overseeing the project.

“A lot of times companies will come to us and say ‘our e-commerce director will project manage this entire thing,’” said Darren Hill, CEO of WebLinc. “That’s a huge project. Hire someone that has done a bunch of replatforms at the size level that you are.”

WebLinc is the e-commerce platform provider for two retailers in the Top 500 Guide, including sports apparel online retailer Fanatics Inc. (No. 38) and youth apparel retail chain Urban Outfitters Inc. (No. 39).




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