In a sign of the growing popularity of hosted e-business, Buy.com subsidiary BuyServices has announced it will manage hosted Web sites for several MTV Networks properties, including MTV, VH1 and CMT.
BuyServices will provide back-end and front-end e-commerce capabilities, distribution, payment and customer support. Shoppers will be able to browse a wide array of products, ranging from CDs and books to movies, games and gadgets.
The shopping portion of the MTV site is already in place, and similar sections soon will follow for MTV2, VH1 and CMT, BuyServices said.
Sherman Atkinson, president of BuyServices, told the E-Commerce Times that prior to the partnership, MTV’s shopping section was less than ideal.
“They had a limited amount of inventory and a lot less feature functionality,” he said. “It wasn’t an optimal shopping experience.”
To beef up the music TV sites, BuyServices gave MTV Networks access to Buy.com’s catalog of 1.5 million items, so that MTV could choose which products to list on its site. Although most of the products are music-related, there also will be nonmusic items that are designed to appeal to the company’s demographic, such as mobile phones and games.
Also, just as all four TV channels have different programming, the four shopping sites will offer different products that appeal to their different viewers.
Although MTV chose to do its own design work rather than farm it out to BuyServices, nearly all of the shopping site’s operations will be handled on an outsourced basis.
“Basically, we’re doing everything,” Atkinson said, “right down to managing the product returns.”
Part of a Trend
Since it spun off from Buy.com in June 2002, BuyServices has been busy building online stores and providing architectures to run them. The company has set up shops for Linksys, BuyMusic, Fandango, UGO Networks and The Campus Hub, as well as Maxim, Stuff and Blender magazines.
Touting its services as “commerce in a box,” BuyServices targets content providers, information portals, wireless service providers and niche e-tailers that want to expand their online shopping capabilities.
In addition to offering fully-hosted e-commerce services, the company provides site development, hosting, transaction processing, content management, fulfillment, reconciliation, customer service and merchandising service.
The sites that will be set up for MTV will differ from the company’s other online stores somewhat, Atkinson said, because BuyServices will be completely transparent.
“We’re in the background of these sites, powering them but not being seen,” he said. “It’s very much a different play than what we’ve been doing up until this point.”
He noted that the MTV Network sites also will have more features than other sites BuyServices has constructed, and there will be more of an emphasis on merchandise specifically licensed for the properties, such as MTV karaoke machines and programming-related items.
The strategy of satisfying MTV’s online shoppers with stand-alone sites is a solid one, according to Aberdeen Group analyst Kent Allen.
“This is a demonstration of the larger trend we’re seeing, which is about customer empowerment,” Allen told the E-Commerce Times. “Even if they already have an online store, like MTV, retailers and e-commerce companies are still revisiting the way they create value for the customer.”
Use of BuyServices will allow MTV Networks to focus less on which products it wants to sell and more on how merchandise will be presented and sold.
“They’re thinking about what the customer wants,” Allen said, “and that creates a great deal of value for everyone involved.”