Oriental Trading Company Finds Good Fortune on the Web with IBM e-business Solution

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SOMERS, N.Y - 19 Jun 2000: -- Oriental Trading Company (OTC), the Nebraska-based industry leader in the sale of value-priced toys, novelty gifts, craft materials and home decor, has unveiled four separate online catalogs to supplement the company's informational site. Each catalog is based on IBM (NYSE: IBM) e-business technology including IBM WebSphere Application Server and IBM DB2 Universal Database.

Originally, OTC did not believe that the majority of its target audience - parents and young children - were even on the Web, let alone buying online. However, when the company's informational site began receiving up to 700 catalog requests daily, that perception quickly changed and OTC accelerated its e-business initiative.

OTC created distinct e-business sites for its four catalog divisions - http://www.articles.com, http://www.terrysvillage.com, http://www.teachercentral.com and http://www.oriental.com. The first of the Web stores was rolled out in three months and supports fully automated online ordering and fulfillment. Each online catalog is stored on the IBM DB2 Universal Database for AS/400, with the largest catalog featuring 15,000 products. Customer profiles captured from the site are also stored in DB2, and OTC intends using these for future e-mail marketing campaigns.

The IBM solution provides user-session management capabilities that enables OTC to interrelate the unique characteristics of each shopper. This information is used to provide each online shopper with a customized experience, based on their previous purchases. "The WebSphere Application Server offers a natural extension to OTC's business systems," says IT director Joe Schwaller. "Working with IBM has helped us understand our customers' needs better."

In just one month, online sales accounted for 3% of the company's total sales. "We haven't even marketed our Web sites at all and we're still finding that 20-30% of the visitors to the sites are new customers. So we're picking up significant incremental business just by being on the Web," said Brad O'Dell manager of e-commerce at OTC.

More than 8,000 total shoppers visit the sites each day, with 8-15% making purchases before they leave. OTC projected online sales to reach 6% of total sales within six to eight months, but have experienced 10-12% volume. The company has also found that the average value of online orders has exceeded that of mail-orders from the print catalog, averaging 10% higher on the http://www.articles.com site.

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