Barely two years old, the online arm of Sydney reseller Comaxes now has sales on par with its bricks-and-mortar parent, company director Colin Williamson claimed.
Conceived late 2002 in response to increased customer requests for online facilities, the operation dubbed ‘PHd sites’ is one of just a few e-procurement success stories, thanks largely to its ‘vertical’ as opposed to ‘supermarket’ design.
Williamson projected that Comaxes would do over $10 million in sales across all its sites over the next 12 months. The company owns hundreds of domains.
Williamson estimated that between 30 to 50 percent of the channel -- including the major vendors -- are now in the process of developing sales portals.
But while some would likely create more competition for retailers, most are not focused enough on what customers want.
“Most traditional retailers are implementing a portal of some description but they don’t have the web expertise to provide customers with advice as to what they’re buying online,” Williamson said.
The key, he believed, was that online resellers need to be able to offer the same or more than what a good sales rep normally would.
“My view is that customers are seeing it as a prerequisite of trading that they can do transactions cleanly and easily online”.
For Comaxes, it’s actually easier for them to ‘up-sell’ extra goods like memory or print cartridges through PHd sites than it is face-to-face.
"$100,000-a-year sales people are chasing the big deals - but will they chase a client for extra RAM or a print cartridge?” Williamson asked.
"Online you can prompt people to make those extra purchases”.
With margins now stable, PHd sites was offering prices three to four percent cheaper than it would by having to sustain a dedicated sales team. It also sells and ships to anywhere in Australia.
Online advertising was of course an important component of its success, although Williamson said that it’s the quality of the clicks, not number of impressions that should guide where companies stick their money.
“The challenge now is to keep the impressions number where it is getting the traffic you want and improving advertising/ conversion rates which is key to online trading,” he said.
PHd sites received around 1.5 million impressions a week, mainly through Google.
The next key phase for the company was to expand its stable of lifestyle and sports portals. Among these are www.santclause.com.au, www.golf.com.au and a recently launched lingerie portal, www.excitement.com.au.
Also the owner of www.purchasing.com.au, Comaxes is now looking to assign individual domains for companies that want to manage their own customised procurement portals.