Organization and communication key to implementing new projects

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PALM DESERT, CA - As retailers are faced with the challenges of keeping up business while adopting the latest technology, they must emphasize communication and an organized strategy if they are to implement new projects effectively, according to executives in an eTail 2007-panel yesterday titled "Getting Major User Experience Projects Launched at Your Company While Keeping More Easily Adoptable Projects Top of Mind."

When beginning a new project, it is important to define a plan on the front end. Jacob Hawkins, senior vice president of online sales at Overstock.com, believes the adage that you can do anything, but you can't do everything.

"We go into the process of approaching projects based on ROI," Mr. Hawkins said. "It's really important to know how long and how much it will cost from a business perspective and to have an accurate assessment of how long it will take and how much it will cost. It is important to focus on projects that will be profitable to your company."

Sometimes it is difficult to organize a plan among different departments within a company.

"I think the technology guys have a different clock than the marketing department," said Pinny Gniwisch, executive vice president of marketing at Ice.com.

This is not always the fault of IT companies.

"I think that the disconnect between IT and the business people is a failure of the business," Mr. Hawkins said. "The problem is that we don't always communicate well with the departments."

Jessica Weiland, senior vice president of marketing and customer care at Neiman Marcus Direct, said it's a two-way street.

"You do have to communicate with IT, it's true, but IT also needs to be very communicative about how to translate this into business terms," she said. "A very consistent, ongoing conversation as a group is a way to help avoid these things bubbling up."

And when building new projects, priority should be given to conversion, according to the panel.

"I think this year, 2007, should be coined the year of conversion," Mr. Gniwisch said. "We need to really focus on how to turn prospective customers into conversions."

Conversion does not just mean sales. It also means customer satisfaction, which is a long-term investment in customer loyalty.

"Conversion really is a measure of customer satisfaction, so that conversion piece is really so critical, not for today's business, but good conversion is going to get those customers to come back with return business," Ms. Weiland said.

Word-of-mouth marketing is important to business, so it is important to communicate with customers to find out which projects are a value-add to the customer and should be developed.

"We need to lead them to the water a little bit to find out what is important to the customer experience," he said. "If you communicate with customers and satisfy their needs, customers will tell their friends."

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