Byline: Brad Barth

PHILADELPHIA — Anthropologie is ending a relationship with an application service provider and taking control of its own Web operations. The move will enable the company to serve customers directly and track inventory in real time.
The change should be completed in the next few weeks, when the women’s retailer also will launch a revamped Web site that features more functions. Anthropologie’s move to bring Web site management in-house comes at a time when many other companies are entering into ASP arrangements to outsource information technology support responsibilities.
According to Michael Robinson, managing director of Anthropologie catalog and Internet, the decision was driven by the positive performance of the site so far. “The success we’ve had over the last year has justified bringing [the system] in-house. We were having our site hosted cross-country, and we wanted it closer to home.”
The retailer has put in place an e-commerce solution from Smith-Gardner, Delray Beach, Fla., which will be integrated with the retailer’s back-end operations. Anthropologie is a division of Urban Outfitters, which will use the same solution to operate its new Web site, set to make its debut later this year.
The key improvement over the company’s old system, according to Robinson, is that “it gives us our online inventory in real time, as opposed to batch updates.”
Robinson said Anthropologie was very careful not to list products on its Web site that were not currently in stock. Therefore, real-time product tracking was essential to eliminate fulfillment mistakes.
To further improve fulfillment, will enable customers to track their own orders, using a secure password to check the status of their shipment. Additional order questions can be directed to customer-service agents via e-mail.
Robinson said Anthropologie preferred this more direct interaction between the company and its customers.
“It’s key because we’re all about managing our relationship with customers, and when your customers are being handled by an outside source, it reduces the amount of control that you have,” he said. For example, he said, when an order was not fulfilled, it took too long for Anthropologie to learn about it through its ASP provider.
After much preparation, however, Anthropologie believes its current infrastructure can now support its own Web server.