Monday, January 14, 2013

New Year, New Site

Since 1997, 1st-line has been transforming the espresso equipment industry.  Since our inception, we try our best to offer the exceptional value in regards to quality merchandise, value pricing, and service to our customers.

In 1998, 1st-line was the first to start shipping product within 1-2 business days of order receipt and initiated quality phone support for customers with equipment issues.  The industry norm was shipping in 3-5 business days and phone support was practically non-existent as suppliers would advise customers to hire a local technician for commercial machine repairs or ship the home unit for repairs.  Whereas most distributors only carried one line, we also led the industry into carrying multiple brands to offer more choices to consumers.

Over the years, we have migrated to shipping orders (received by 2pm EST) out of our warehouse same business day and has provided goods and services to over 50,000 clients.

From June 2011 through December 2012, we have been feverishly working on a new systemic approach to offer the following quality services to our customers.

Higher level security
  • Our online storefront, of a select few, is PA-DSS validated to meet the most challenging information security requirements.
  • Our online storefront is tested for security risks on a monthly basis and is tested daily for malware.
  • Our web host provider and our internal systems and internet connections are tested for security vulnerabilities on a monthly basis.
  • With real time credit card processing, customer payment information is not stored on our servers and is passed through to the processors and banks via a secure connection as required by the major credit card companies.  In addition, since none of our employees have access to any credit card numbers or security numbers, we are unable to process credit card charges over the phone.  However, this removes all possibilities to have credit card numbers stolen or hacking your online account at 1st-line.
  • To avoid potential fraudulent charges, we have implemented an additional step of security during the checkout process whereby your bank (name will sometimes be shown and we do not see) may ask for additional private information to make sure you are the cardholder.  This is called Verified by Visa and Mastercard SecureCode.  This is another deterrent to those who steal credit card information and this technology allows us to process gift orders to different ship to locations (Visa and MasterCard only at time of this writing).
Real time inventory
Our old storefront wasn't able to track stock levels.  We had to manually mark items as out of stock.  If something were to run out of stock, we added "out of stock" to the description.  It gets hard to keep track, especially over the weekend.

With our new storefront, inventory is updated automatically as customers place orders.  Once the last of a particular item is purchased, the purchase button is removed.  Another button will show which allows customers to receive an email when the item comes back in stock.

1 Site
Originally we had 2 sites.  One was which was our "search-engine user friendly" site which displayed our products.  The other was which was our purchasing site.  When you find the product you want to purchase on .com, there was a buy button which brought you to .net where you added the item to your cart.  Then you would go back to .com to continue shopping. Now we have eliminated .net.

Easier navigation
Originally our site was build more around the brands. Each brand had its own page with all its products sorted by type.  If a customer was looking for a specific type of espresso machine,  they would have to click into each brand and browse through all products.

For example, if a customer was looking for a lever machine for their home under $1000, they would click through each brand to look for lever machines.  If they didn't know what Jura and Saeco sold, they would be clicking through there too.

With our new storefront, looking for what the customer needs is easier...
Espresso Machines --> Home --> by Machine Type --> Manual Piston
By default the products are sorted by highest price, but you can change the sort order by lowest price.

Build-to-order packages -

Our old storefront didn't have the flexibility to build packages or customize special prices on products. If we did have a special offer we would have the customers call to place the order.  With our new storefront we can build packages where we can
  • add a product as a free item.
  • add multiple products as free items where customers can choose 1.
  • add products with special pricing.
  • automatically remove products that are out of stock.
  • automatically deactivate the package if a certain required product is out of stock.
Just look for this package deal button on each product and click on it to check out the latest package deals.

Efficiency behind the scenes
Originally when a customer places an order, nothing is actually processed.  The order goes a system where our office staff manually types the order into our ordering system.  Then all the orders are charged through our billing system.  Then we use our UPS system to print out labels.  Then our warehouse staff puts the orders together.  Then we email each customer their tracking number.  With our new storefront, most of this busy work is now automated.
  • The ability to pick, pack, and prepare shipment of orders within 15 minutes of receipt during business hours and a tracking number emailed as soon as we generate a shipping label (used to at end of day).
  • The ability to ship orders that were received up to 4pm EST same business day (weekends not included), including those with standard ground service.
  • Online help desk for customers who have questions, concerns, etc.
  • Online return process for applicable items that can be returned.
  • For small, light weight, and low value items, the ability to select USPS Mail as a carrier which provides a lower cost delivery option for customers.