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(Nikkei BP Group)

(No.1 High-Tech News Site in Japanese)

  • Major Japanese Department Store Sees Rise in Web Shopping
  • August 28, 1998 (TOKYO) -- Takashimaya Co., Ltd., a major Japanese department store, said its Web shopping rose to 27 million yen (US$186,000) for June and July this year.
    That's about 13 times the online sales of the same period last year.

    The store said giving advice to clients about shopping and other individual customer services were effective in increasing sales.

    Takashimaya receives a variety of questions from clients about shopping on its home page, and sends back e-mail answers within 48 hours from receipt, recommending goods available at the store that fit the needs of the client. This service is available to anyone registered as a member.

    About 25 percent of the 5-10 questioners a day decide to purchase the recommended goods. This "Secretary Service," already offered in the United States by department store Nordstrom, was introduced for the first time in department stores in Japan by Takashimaya.

    Customer services are individualized so that a user can register on the Net a name list for gift-sending and various anniversaries, and display on the home page goods selected by the attributes of the client such as gender and number of children.

    Secretary Service tends to push up the operating cost, as it depends on manual work for dealing with customers individually. However, Takashimaya succeeded in cost reduction.

    Specialist advisers check questions input by customers on the home page every day and classify those questions into some categories of goods. They ask sales clerks informed of the categories to recommend some items on sale by e-mail through a local-area network system, and choose the best items for each customer. Then, advisers reply to the customers by e-mail, reporting selected goods, reason for choice, prices and other information.

    "The labor cost can be reduced because sales staff choose the best items while they are not serving visitors, and retired sales clerks work as advisers on a part-time basis. They will work from home in the future," Takashimaya said.

    The Web site system was developed free by Nippon Telegraph and Telephone Corp. (NTT) in cooperation with Takashimaya for joint development of the Internet shopping system. Internet Information Server of Microsoft Co., Ltd. was employed for the Web server software, Oracle of Oracle Corp. Japan was selected as the database software to manage commodity information and ObjectStore of Object Design Inc. of the United States was picked as the object-oriented database to control customer information.

    Takashimaya has been trying to build and expand its Internet shopping system as one of its marketing strategies since 1996. Total investment has already exceeded 250 million yen (US$1.7 million). It has about 5,000 members as of August, and it targeting 10,000 by the end of this year.

    (Nikkei Information Strategy)

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    Updated: Thu Aug 27 16:09:59 1998 PDT