Much like the U.S. Marine Corps' ongoing search for a few good men, PC and consumer electronics e-tailer Digitally Unique is on the march, looking to add to its vendor base.
Mark Yeaman, Digitally Unique's president/CEO, reached out to vendors during an address at RetailVision, here, earlier this month, making the argument that changes being made to his online store ( www.digitallyunique.com) will make it the place for vendors to sell high-end home theater and other CE products. In addition, these alterations will require new partners to help populate several new retail ventures that Digitally Unique is poised to implement.
These will include kiosks that are similar to those operated by Dell and Bose, a catalog, and a revamped Web site capable of displaying many more products, he said. In addition, Yeaman is attempting to turn Digitally Unique into a solutions- and services-based retailer and not just another online store.
Yeaman described the Denver-based Digitally Unique, which began operations in 2001, as a place where customers can find niche and upscale products not found at an online mass merchant like Amazon.com or Buy.com, and he intends to push this image in the coming months by adding more high-end home theater merchandise. Because these products require a trained sales staff and installation, Yeaman is increasing the number of in-house telephone sales associates to about 60 by next year and is working on setting up an installation system.
“The missing link with selling this type of product online is the service component. Our push is going to be on the services side. We are going to work with the CEDIA folks and local installers to handle that aspect of the business,” he said.
Digitally Unique's current product mix is about 35 percent CE and 65 percent IT. Yeaman intends to focus on and increase the CE percentage because that category has the most growth potential, he said. The increase will not come at the expense of the IT merchandise, which will remain the core product segment because much of the company's revenue is derived from IT sales to small businesses.
However, the level of competition from brick-and-mortar and online computer retailers is such that it makes more sense to expect the company's future growth to come from the CE side of the business, Yeaman said. Looking at his competition, he pointed to Best Buy as the other online store making a major push in this category. The dozens of other e-commerce sites selling IT products are creating a situation where price plays the primary role in attracting consumers, and this is a fight Digitally Unique wants to avoid.
The final kiosk details are still being worked out, but Yeaman said the first will be installed in Denver's airport most likely next year, and additional locations will be in similar high foot-traffic areas. The kiosks will allow people to get their hands on the technology and talk to trained sales associates who can explain how it fits into their homes.
While not wishing to go into Digitally Unique's financial details, Yeaman did say the company intends to break its marketing and advertising spending record in the coming months to hype the changes. This will center primarily on ads in buff books along with some direct mail to established customers, like those of J&R Music World, he said.
With all of these pieces in place Yeaman hopes it will help break Digitally Unique out of the clutter of e-tailers for both consumers and vendors.
“We have to fight the image that we are a small 'eBay' company that works out of a garage somewhere,” he said.
From the vendors, Digitally Unique is looking not only for more products, but also support. This would include in-house training for its expanding sales staff and, as he requested from vendors at RetailVision, better product data to help flesh out the company's new Web site. Some of this is already provided by vendors and third-party firms like Tentoe, which creates back-end product content for retailers.