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Insight Building New Online Store InterWorld, Cambridge help to increase e-commerce

Computer products direct marketer Insight Enterprises Inc. linked up with Internet commerce software company InterWorld Corp. and consulting and systems integration firm Cambridge Technology Partners Inc. to construct a second-generation online computer store that it hopes will help it sell more goods electronically.

Insight's move toward a more electronic model has been sparked by the lower costs involved — an especially valuable asset for a company selling narrow-margin products like computers — and that computers, components of which can be specified by buyers, lend themselves well to e-commerce. The site will debut next spring.

Currently, only 5 percent of Insight's sales take place online. That percentage has held relatively stable for the last several quarters. The majority of Insight's sales come through outbound telesales and catalogs, though the company has recently cut back on its catalog efforts on the consumer side. Insight, Tempe, AZ, also is trying to build its e-mail database as part of its push to boost e-commerce.

For its part, InterWorld, New York, will provide Insight with its Process-Centric Computing technology, which is designed to personalize pricing, discounts, sales and promotions for individual customers. The software also lets Insight make changes to these personalized transactions without re-coding the software. Cambridge Technology, Cambridge, MA, will spearhead all phases of putting the new site into action, including the project's scope, design, development, testing and final roll out.

“Going on to the next step, the InterWorld solution is going to allow us to add some search features through a database application that will make searching much quicker and easier,” said Chuck Jarrell, Insight's vice president for marketing. The site will feature a new “configurator,” a tool that lets customers specify computer variables, such as memory size, then search for the best match for that configuration in Insight's database.

“It will allow you to basically build a product from scratch,” Jarrell said. The site also makes it easier for users to compare different companies' products when they're deciding on a purchase.

Insight does not carry computers from direct PC giants Dell Computer Corp. or Gateway Inc., but does feature technology from IBM Corp., Compaq Computer Corp., NEC, Toshiba, Hewlett-Packard Co. and others. Insight's site, located at www.Insight.com, carries more than 50,000 products.

The revamped Web page follows other changes in Insight's online presence that have taken place over the last 90 days. The company reworked its United Kingdom site in the first week of October and recently redesigned its Canada Web site. Insight cut some portions of its home page that weren't necessary for actual sales, such as online job applications, and tried to reduce some of the steps involved in seeking out desired products.

“We went into our products area and reorganized the structure under which customers search,” Jarrell said. “We applied a little more of a common sense look at the products that we've got so the customer can eliminate some of the clicks that they were having [to go through] to buy the product.”

Insight will continue aiming primarily for small- and medium-sized business customers through the Web. Businesses already account for 90 percent of the company's overall sales, which ran at $800 million for the 12 months ended June 30 and came in at $237 million in the company's second quarter.

“If you look at the statistics, there are about 100,000 small and medium enterprises in the United States,” Jarrell said. “Their computer buying power is enormous and they're all moving very rapidly to computerize. If you look at all the Fortune 1000 companies, they're already into pretty elaborate computer networks. Many of them have standardized on the particular hardware and software that they use. A lot of that is not true yet of smaller enterprises.”

As part of a branding effort, Insight is sponsoring its second Insight.com Bowl, a college football post-season bowl game formerly known as the Copper Bowl and played the day after Christmas. The game will be televised nationally on ESPN, and Insight will run ad spots during it.

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