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May 07, 2003
Case Study

How to Improve eretail Partner Sales Without Cannibalizing Your Own Online Sales

SUMMARY: Do you sell products through major eretailers? Learn how
electronics manufacturer D-Link changed their site design to
funnel more visitors to shop on partner sites.

Plus, hear how they used back-end reports on their partner's
inventory, pricing and conversion rates to twist arms so partners performed better. Very useful data.
CHALLENGE

"The category lends itself to pushing out new
technology quickly at an inexpensive price. But you need someone
who can show it, if you want to sell it." says Matt Dargis,
Director of Sales at D-Link Systems, Inc.

Two years ago, while channel sales were still building out,
Dargis launched an eretail store at D-Link's corporate website.

"We set it up and sales skyrocketed. But what that told me was
that we didn't have enough people carrying our product."

The Company focused even harder more on supporting channel
sales, because they felt that more experienced (and highly
trafficked) eretailers would do an even better job of selling and
servicing online buyers.

Dargis was tasked with driving D-Link's site traffic to third
party online retailers, but he had two concerns:

a. How could he make sure that eretailers would make the most
of the traffic D-Link's site sent them and not sell
them competitor's products instead?


b. Also, could he still keep some of D-Link's own very
profitable online sales going at the same time?

CAMPAIGN

Initially, like many others before him, Dargis just
added a "where to buy" section to the website, with links to
online catalogs and stores.

Unfortunately, fewer than 3000 people used this section each
month; around 0.5% of Dargis's monthly visitors (note: Only a
proportion of these corporate site visitors are would-be buyers
of course).

Dargis identified three problems with the "where to buy"
approach.

1. It took too many clicks to get into and through the section.

2. Without the resources to maintain multiple and unique
reseller links for every product, the site could only link
to retailer homepages, or, if Dargis was lucky, a D-Link
homepage within the retail site. Inevitably, though, the
destination pages exposed referrals to competitors'
products.

Dargis says, "There's a lot of slippage over to somebody
else's products".

3. Once the visitor left the D-Link site, Dargis had no idea
what happened after that. He suspected actual sales were
"negligible."

What he really wanted was a low-maintenance way of sending
appropriate referrals to specific D-Link product pages at each
reseller, with feedback on the results, so he could use that info
when communicating with those resellers.

In October, 2002, Dargis revamped the D-Link ecommerce site
with two major changes to solve these problems:

Change #1: Putting two "Buy Now" buttons next to each product

Now each product in D-Link's online store has two action buttons
next to it. One invites visitors to "Buy now from DLinkShop",
one invites them to "View online retailers."

If consumers click on the first, they can purchase at D-Link just
as in the past. If they click on the second link, they see a
popup page listing the various dealer/retailer sites they can
chose to buy this particular product from.

Most importantly, when they click on any dealer/retailer site,
that link takes them directly into the page to purchase that
particular D-Link product. They do not see the home page or
category page where competitors' products might be displayed.

D-Link has a lot of distributors who are online, and Dargis
did not want to confuse buyers with too many links, so the pop-up
only lists major distributors.

If a retailer is out of stock of that particular item (or simply
does not carry it), they do not get a hotlink in that item's pop-
up.

Dargis decided to make the order in which retailer's links appear
in the pop-up entirely random. At the moment his policy is to
treat all major partners equally, a concept which runs through
his management of all the referrals he sends via the website.


Change #2: Increasing back-end reporting on partner activities

At the same time as adding the new links, Dargis also implemented
a back-end system to measure and track results carefully. The
reports he uses include:

o How many click throughs each partner gets for each product
o Each partner's conversion rate on these clicks
o D-Link inventory for each partner to determine who is
stocked up with everything they could sell, and who does not
stock enough
o The price at which each partner is selling D-Link products

Then Dargis uses this data in turn to convince partners to
carrying and promote more D-Link products. He explains, "We can
say, 'Here's our top 12 selling products online, you guys only
carry six of them. You guys are costing yourselves money.'"

He quotes one example, "TigerDirect, we went in and said you
don't have all our SKUs set up. We weren't aware of it and nor
were they; it was an oversight. They immediately turned on as
many as they could that fitted their channel. It was immediate
business."

Often, he says, it is just a question of retailers not keeping on
top of inventory or warehousing.

When Dargis holds his quarterly meetings with partner retailers,
he can show them the exact revenue and leads he is providing them,
and use that to broker benefits for his products.

He says, "Some of the big guys were shocked. It was a perfect
lead in for us to say you need to take us more seriously or you
need to increase our exposure or our competitor isn't doing this
for you so maybe you should reallocate this advertising."

Dargis can see when his price reductions have not been implemented
on the retailer side. He says, "We'll let them know. 'You may
not have seen the email but you need to change your price, you're
not competitive right now, you're losing business.'"



RESULTS

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partners reported 116,044 qualified leads generated through
the new buy now pop-up system, and not all retailers report on
a timely basis, so this is an underestimate.

These leads came from 76,430 loads of the retailer popup page,
indicating a clickthrough rate in excess of 150%, i.e. while some
potential buyers may not click at all, others click to visit
multiple eretailers, presumably to comparison shop.

D-Link's eretail partners report conversion rates for their leads
of around 3%.

More insights:

- At the moment D-Link is sending partners seven times as many
leads as pre-October, 2002.

- About eight times as many people click on the "View online
retailers" popup link as on the "Buy now from DLinkShop" link.

Dargis suspects that anyone who does not want the convenience of
purchasing immediately is more likely to want to buy from a
retailer because of potential pricing, service and familiarity
benefits.

- Sales to D-Links own store have *not* dropped, but have
actually risen 5-10% due to overall traffic growth.

Dargis says, "The business didn't go down and the online retailer
business skyrocketed. The model seems to be working. And we don't
get any complaints from our resellers regarding our online
store."

- Retailers respond very positively to the reports. Dargis
says, "We're analyzing the data and the SKUs of our product line
and it makes us a better partner than our competitors who don't
have it."

Dargis sees these kind of manufacturer-retailer services as the
future, adding, "This is one of the first times in a long time
where the manufacturer can offer something back to the Internet
retailer or online reseller, so maybe there's a partnership there
instead of us just paying money for real estate."

Links:

The technology company which enables the extra Buy Now Button and
back-end partner reporting for D-Link:
http://www.channelintelligence.com/


http://www.dlink.com/
See Also:

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