Vintage Tub Dealer Cleans Up with E-Commerce

Case Study: Although at first it "fell flat on its face," the clawfoot collection site is catching on after adopting a hosted model.

For every Internet e-commerce site pilloried as a spectacular flameout, there are perhaps dozens more flying under the radar that attract little attention, fail to close sales with customers who do stumble upon them and quietly fade away.

Thats what happened to the first release of the site, which online retailer Vintage Tub & Bath spun off from its flagship site in late 2003.

An online store selling reproduction antique bath tubs and bathroom fixtures, "fell flat on its face," said Vintage Tub General Manager Allan Dick, and closed barely a dozen sales in its first year of operation.

"There were some usability and back-end problems, and our main site kept us so busy we just let it fall by the wayside," said Dick in Hazleton, Pa.

But rather than scuttle the deadbeat site, Vintage Tub, which sells nearly $10 million worth of reproduction tubs, sinks and bathroom fixtures online every year, turned to a startup, hosted e-commerce software provider Demandware Inc., to breathe new life into with a site redesign.

Vintage Tub uses another provider, which it declined to disclose for competitive reasons, for its site.

But the company didnt want to rely on one provider for all its e-commerce operations, Dick said.

Dick said he was impressed with Demandwares e-commerce pedigree: Demandware CEO Stephan Schambach founded e-commerce pioneer Intershop Communications AG in 1992 and remains an internationally recognized expert in the field.

/zimages/4/28571.gifClick here to read more about Demandwares launch.

But more than anything, Dick said he likes what the hosted model offers.

"We dont want to be an IT department; we want to sell tubs. The Demandware solution came along at the right time," said Dick, who was attracted to the idea of another company taking ownership of the process.

"They said, Well handle the IT; well handle the back-end integration; well make sure the shopping cart works. It really makes sense from the pricing standpoint and from the strategic standpoint."

It was up to Demandware, of Woburn, Mass., and integration partner PixelMedia Inc., of Portsmouth, N.H., to turn the site around.

Demandware would host the back end of the site, providing transaction management, e-commerce tools, storage, security and failover support, while PixelMedia designed the front end and integrated it into the Demandware platform.

"PixelMedias job was to provide the skin for the site," said Dick. "We had some very good elements on the site; they just werent working well with each other. So they took the elements we had, added on to them and repositioned them. The usability and architecture we have now are better than what the previous designer did."

Dick said Vintage Tub provided the "overall ideas" for the site, such as whether to sell products in sets or individually, what products to detail, and what products could be sold together.

PixelMedia and Demandware took it from there, with PixelMedia designing the look of the site and then translating the sites requirements and user interface to the back-end system.

"Demandware has the platform and tool set; were a professional services consultancy," said Thomas Obrey, chief operating officer and co-founder of PixelMedia.

"We overhauled and re-engineered the site and scoped out what it would take to port the Clawfoot Collection site into the Demandware platform."

Next Page: Key improvements.