Web-Enabled Dollars

The Sewickley, Pa.-based VAR has developed applications for, maintained and upgraded Campmor’s Web site since 1997, helping increase the sporting goods store’s percentage of revenue generated online to 72 percent in 2005 from 6 percent in 1997.

“We’ve been online since 1995,” said Erich Eyler, CTO of Campmor. “No one was selling anything on the Internet back then, and we put up a simple form from our catalog to convince our president that people really would buy things online.”

Once the decision was made to give customers a way to shop online, Eyler said that Campmor, Mahwah, N.J., decided to develop its site on the IBM WebSphere platform and went in search of a solution provider.

“We looked at a bunch of big companies out there, and we went with IBM WebSphere Commerce Suite. We wanted to get software from a company that we knew wasn’t going to be out of business in six months, and we needed an IBM business partner,” Eyler said.

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Tachyon was exactly what Campmor was seeking—a smaller company who Eyler thought could give more personalized service than he’d find dealing with IBM directly. After the initial development, Tachyon was hired to maintain and support the portal.

“When they first started, [IBM WebSphere] was probably overkill for them, but they knew where they wanted to go, and they never had to stop and look back and start over. The platform has grown with them to where they are right now,” Tachyon CEO Marion Lewis said.

Successful development had its challenges. “The most difficult thing is determining what the requirements are. Often, you have different opinions on how the functionality should work. Defining it up front is very important,” Tachyon President Jeanette Thomas said. “They are using [a Hewlett-Packard] 3000 legacy system. They’ve had it for a very long time. It’s a workhorse, and you know how people become attached to those things, so sometimes meshing the two systems together was a challenge.”

Maintaining the site requires continuous attention. “We’re not being reactive. We’re being proactive. A year or so ago, we said, ‘We don’t think we really know well enough what’s going on,’ ” so Tachyon implemented an analytics solution to identify how the site was being used and what worked well, Lewis said.

“It was out of that solution that it became very clear to us that their search application was not as strong as it should be,” she said.

Tachyon then went on to use iPhrase, now integrated into the WebSphere platform, to enhance the search functionality, allowing customers to search for specific types of products.

Developing the search application presented a big learning curve for Tachyon. “The one thing I’ve learned is that the most important part of the entire project is requirements gathering, the writing of the functional specifications document,” Thomas said. “It’s just as important to know what’s not included in the project as well as what is included in the project.”

In addition to daily conversations to work out maintenance issues, the solution provider is working with Campmor on plans for the rest of 2006, including an upgrade to IBM’s WebSphere Commerce Suite 5.6 and network maintenance for the IBM DB2 database.

“We’re going through a general redesign of the site to give it a fresher look, a more streamlined shopping flow. We’re trying to make it easier for people to use gift certificates [online],” Campmor’s Eyler said.

Both solution provider and customer are happy with their ongoing relationship. “What is so unique about this is they are so open to the process,” Lewis said. “They understand that when they developed this in 1998, that wasn’t the end of the story. That they continued to make enhancements, and they needed to be smart about how they evaluated what those enhancements needed to be. It really was a collaboration between our two firms to make the best site possible.”

Eyler agrees: “I know our president feels it was one of the best business decisions we ever made—getting in touch with them,” he said.