Informed buyers Featured

6:39am EDT May 30, 2003
Deep is one way to describe Audio-Technica's Web site.

Comprehensive information on products and industry terminology, and even tutorials on eliminating audio problems fill the site of the Stow-based microphone manufacturer.

"One of the things we initially set out as a common goal was to make Audio-Technica the authority on microphones and wireless systems, and one of the ways to do that was to make the Web site a resource not only for our products but to provide industry information as well," says Gary Boss, marketing director retail, live sound & studio for the 110-employee company. "We are adding immense amounts of credibility to our name by providing unbiased information to the community as a whole."

The company does not sell its products through its Web site; it sells through field reps, who sell to resellers who then sell to the end-user.

"It's not intended to be a sales site -- at least not a direct sales site," says Boss. "We get e-mails all the time from people asking where they can purchase our products, so we are generating leads off of this. We are making it easier to deal with Audio-Technica.

"We constantly get compliments to the Webmaster on the ease of use, and that's evidenced by the high number of hits (2 million plus). People are using this as a resource."

The site is meant to be a resource for anyone in the supply chain, though end-users, who range from garage bands to Billy Joel, are the primary targets.

"We look at our sales team in the field as customers, our dealers and distributors are customers and the end-user is the ultimate customer," says Boss. "The thing we really found out was that it is equally important to educate all aspects of that chain for the whole thing to work. The site becomes a resource for not only the end-user, but all the other users in the chain."

Sale representatives can get the product specifications they need to sell the product to resellers. Consumers can educate themselves on why they should choose one particular type of microphone over another -- or learn how to eliminate feedback.

"We have deep, comprehensive training information that is not Audio-Technica specific," says Boss. "We have a 100-word glossary of industry terms because there are tons of confusing terms for someone that is just coming into the audio field. It's brand-enhancing without the hype. Will the sales eventually come down the line? It definitely has the potential."

The site has also become a valuable internal resource. Information that used to have to be faxed or copied for sales reps can now be pulled directly from the site at any time, freeing employees to do other tasks. With product manuals online, including ones from discontinued products, people who bought used equipment with no instructions can be directed to the site rather than tying up an employee.

"It's a way to provide that information to them without having the traffic come into the office," says Boss. "This has been a very good tool for us both internally and externally. It's a huge benefit that has helped everything from customer service to sales.

"People can really understand the product and dig into it in a way they couldn't before and get the information on a timely basis." How to reach: Audio-Technica, or (330) 686-2600

Some assembly required

When the internal team at Audio-Technica set out to create a comprehensive informational Web site, it didn't expect it to be such a monumental task.

"The organization and logistics of making the site functional were a huge undertaking, and we totally underestimated that," says Gary Boss, marketing director retail, live sound & studio for the company. "It was simple to just put up an alphanumeric list of our products, but the more we got into it and wanted to include more options on how people could find information, it became very involved."

One particularly time-consuming task was getting photos ready for the Web site. Product photos had been taken over a period of years and were of differing standards and types -- and none were in an electronic format. Hundreds of product slides had to be converted to a digital format to be added to the site.

As a relative latecomer to the World Wide Web -- the company's site went live in 1998 -- the team was able to draw upon a lot of what had already been done and avoid some of the mistakes. The framework of the site was done by a third party, but three to five members from the marketing, marketing communications and graphic design departments, including Boss, did the actual design and navigation.

"The navigation was ultimately important to us," says Boss. "There are numerous ways to get to the information because there are numerous levels of users."

For example, users can search by product type, by application or by model number.

"There are about six ways to slice the data," says Boss. "This is based on the knowledge that no two users are the same. We wanted to get them to the information with the fewest number of clicks with the broadest number of options presented up front."