By Alan Wolf, YSN
BrandSource members have lauded LINQ, AVB’s online merchandising portal, which has become an essential tool for e-tail and no doubt contributed to the group’s better-than 800 percent increase in online transactions last year.
But the big news about LINQ this year is that what was already the leading edge of product management technology has gotten even better.
Developed by AVB Marketing VP Jim Schuett, with dealer input provided by LINQ senior product manager Laura Dake, the program allows members to present their most popular products on their e-commerce catalog pages, keep online pricing and promotions current and in lockstep with in-store merchandising, and present their wares in the most saleable and customer-engaging way. With LINQ, members can:
- Sort their merchandise by popularity, rather than alphabetically.
- Showcase promotions.
- Create special catalogs for scratch-and-dent and other clearance models.
- Flag products that are in-stock, on sale or offer special features.
- Set rules to price-scrape competitors’ products and meet or beat their retails.
- Make custom product packages that take advantage of their overstock and vendor deals.
Essentially, as CEO Jim Ristow explained even prior to the pandemic, LINQ merchandises your website — which in the e-commerce age should be your flagship store.
But LINQ had its limitations. As Schuett noted, LINQ’s user interface (UI) was originally designed for Sacramento’s catalog team rather than for dealers, and had been modified for members via a series of add-on components. As engagement and feature sets grew, LINQ became due for an update, so the decision was made to redesign it from the ground up for all users.
Based on member feedback, Dake and the team mapped out a new series of requirements. Schuett then set to work “reverse engineering” the software using new language, and built an entirely new UI with relocated buttons that is faster, more intuitive and easier to use than its predecessor.
The updated LINQ UI is also more flexible, allowing members to implement customized merchandising tactics, such as posting in-stock items only on the site, rather than displaying the entire vendor catalog. In addition, LINQ has been optimized for mobile with a responsive layout that automatically adjusts to whichever screen size it’s accessed from — be it mobile phone, tablet, laptop or desktop computer — making the system even more user friendly.
Further enhancing LINQ was an infrastructure upgrade, which provides greater speed and responsiveness and can accommodate robust updates more quickly. There’s also a new French-friendly version of LINQ for our MEGA Group/BrandSource Canada friends to the North.
To ensure that the rebuilt platform was bulletproof, Dake beta-tested the program with a small group of dealers last summer before launching the new, improved “LINQ 2.0” this year. And based on member feedback, the team hit it out of the park.
“I just checked out the new LINQ,” wrote Pete Kossaras, owner of Kurt’s Appliance Center in Saint Johns, Mich. “From what I’ve seen so far, it looks much more streamlined and much, much quicker.” His one-word summary: “Wow!”
Manager Greg Schmidt at Stewart-Molander Appliances in Antioch, Calif., concurred. “The new LINQ interface is really nice,” he reported. “I like it!”
And as an added testament to it user-friendliness, David Jones, owner of Jones Appliance & TV in Iowa Falls, told YourSource News that his seventy-something dad has become his company’s “LINQ specialist.”
“The new software is easier,” Jones said. “He’s doing great with it.”
For owners whose fathers are less inclined to liaison with LINQ, or who are simply too preoccupied with day-to-day operations to manage the program themselves, AVB continues to offer its LINQ4U assisted service, in which set-up and merchandising duties are handled by the tech team in California.
“We continue to innovate,” added AVB’s marketing VP Brian Wattier, who described LINQ 2.0 as “the leading merchandising tool for today’s retailer,” and promised even more integrations and improvements to come.
BrandSource, a unit of YSN publisher AVB Inc., is a nationwide buying group for independent appliance, furniture, mattress and CE dealers.