The Guardian has turned to an outside software provider, Shopcreator, to get its thriving e-commerce business onto the Internet quickly.
Its stock of reader offers, ranging from books by The Guardian writers to duck feather pillows, is supplied by a number of different companies, including BVG Airflo, Jem Marketing, Timscris, Van Meuwen and Bertrams Books.
This means the Web site needs to process a customer order and dispatch the order data separately to each different supplier. This was the key piece of functionality that led The Guardian to choose Shopcreator.
It considered five different vendors, but Shopcreator was the only one that could meet this need.
'We did try to find someone else that had multiple shopping functionality. However, no-one else actually had it working,' said The Guardian product and e-commerce manager Laura Bowes.
The Guardian considered building the site in-house, but decided to use an external software provider to get the project running quicker.
In the end, The Guardian was able to get the system up and running in six weeks.
The Web site is hosted by Shopcreator, with Barclaycard's ePDQ payment functionality. Shopcreator also supplied a content management system, which allows The Guardian to specify the dates when items appear on or disappear from the site.
Shopcreator designed it to fit with the rest of The Guardian's Web sites.
'Our site completely mirrors the look of the Guardian Unlimited site. From the user's point of view it should be completely seamless,' said Bowes.
With the exception of the multiple supplier facility, many of the software solutions that Bowes and her team considered were quite similar, although there was 'quite a big variation in price', she said.
In a market where many providers offer very similar products, customer service is a key differentiator, and an area where Bowes and her team felt very satisfied.
She said: 'We really appreciated their (Shopcreator) flexibility and their willingness to crack on with the job - their ability to understand our business needs and their tenacity in getting on and building the site to meet them.'
- Online shopping: page 24.