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Mercent Fuels Marketplace Presence for Car Toys

Car Toys Inc., a retailer of mobile and wireless electronics, is using the Mercent Commerce System to handle online marketplaces better.

The software particularly helps Car Toys at Amazon, where the company is a premiere merchant partner in the consumer electronics category. It also is used on Yahoo Shopping, BizRate, Froogle, PriceGrabber, NexTag, Shopping.com, Shopper.com and MySimon, all comparison-shopping sites and marketplaces where Car Toys is featured.

“Not only have we saved money, but we've also been able to make incremental sales,” said Glen Hamilton, director of e-commerce at Car Toys, Seattle. “With our Amazon relationship, this is a critical part of our online business, and it is the most rapidly growing. The marketplaces will soon be our largest online direct marketing venue.”

Mercent's software works as a communications system for product data that is specific to each merchandising channel. The software is installed on Car Toys' servers. The Mercent Commerce System communicates with Car Toys' catalog databases.

Mercent orchestrates and schedules the data feeds in both directions and logs in all the transactional data. Then it transfers the data from its native format within Car Toys' software system into the appropriate format for the marketplace supported. Finally, Mercent's relational data store provides for staging and consolidating both product merchandising and transactional data for all the channels used by Car Toys.

“The benefit to the retailer is then they're able to create separate merchandising data for each online channel we support,” said Eric Best, CEO of Mercent, Seattle.

Car Toys sells on Amazon what it sells on its own Web site: electronics such as car and marine audio, in-car navigation, radar detectors, lamps and bulbs. Brands include Kenwood, Audiovox and Magellan.

The Mercent software is attuned to Amazon's special needs. As a merchant, Car Toys has at least 12 XML data feeds between itself and Amazon. They include information on orders, customers, products, inventory and pricing.

“This is really why Amazon is so unique among the marketplaces we support: They're a fully transactional environment facilitating online shopping on behalf of its merchants,” Best said.

Any Car Toys product bought on Amazon is transacted on the same site. This is unlike the other shopping portals and marketplaces that feature Car Toys' products, where clicking on a link takes consumers to the pertinent page on www.cartoys.com.

Founded in 1987, Car Toys has 54 stores in Oregon, Colorado, Texas and Washington. It also has a wholesale wireless business, a paging products and services company and a commercial sales unit for auto and boat dealers. Another channel is the insurance placement business.

The Car Toys relationship with Amazon took effect in April, and the BizRate presence last month. Prior to using Mercent, Car Toys wrote its own software to publish its product catalog on the various product-comparison sites in the native format of each site.

Mercent's other customers include sporting goods retailer Altrec.com, Proflowers.com, Fortunoff, Shane Co., Lucky Brand Jeans and organic cosmetics firm Saffron Rouge. Clients are charged an upfront fee along with installation and maintenance charges. Mercent also charges a fee for a la carte services like technology integration, data mapping and software development.

Car Toys started using Mercent in April to time with the Amazon launch.

“Mercent doesn't provide the relationship,” Hamilton said. “It provides the software and the systems to manage those relationships. In so doing, it has allowed us to dramatically increase our sales from those relationships and lowered the cost per transaction from those marketplaces.”

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