Week of August 6, 2001
Editor's Choice Web Pick
SiteStuff Revisited: Redesign Has Added a Lot of the Right StuffBy JACK LYNE Site Selection Executive Editor of Interactive Publishing
SiteStuff (www.sitestuff.com) practically qualifies as an endangered species: a pure-play real estate dot-com that's still standing.
Chances are you've heard of SiteStuff, an online procurement marketplace for property owners and managers. The site made big headlines in September of last year, when the Project Octane Alliance - CB Richard Ellis Services, Insignia/ESG, Jones Lang LaSalle and Trammell Crow Co. - selected SiteStuff as its primary supplier for Web-based purchasing. The Octane hookup gave SiteStuff both major industry credibility and massive purchasing leverage. Together, the allied firms account for 1.2 billion sq. ft. (111.5 million sq. m.) of commercial real estate. SiteStuff recently debuted its redesigned Web site. This corner previously reviewed the site way back in February of last year - frankly, probably well before SiteStuff was really ready for review. A second look seemed to be in order.
That look indicates that SiteStuff's redesign has added a lot of the right stuff.
Far Cleaner DesignFor one thing, the new design is far cleaner than the version we looked at 16 months ago. Gone is the pull-down menu with its "neighborhoods" (corporate, industrial, office, etc.). Five useful tabs pop up at the top of every page: "buy products," "contract services," "find resources," "about us" and "help."
Said SiteStuff CEO Michael Stewart, "We focus on improving the purchasing process for real estate professionals at every level. That's why we've designed our site to be user friendly, functional and easier to navigate, so our customers can quickly access the products and information they need."
Using Ariba Marketplace and Ariba Dynamic Trade software, SiteStuff facilitates executing online routing and approval procedures, reviewing customer-specific catalogs, and completing formal request for qualification proposals through reverse auctions.
'Resources' Consolidated in One SectionThe redesigned SiteStuff also includes a consolidated resource section. It's under the "find resources" tab and contains "product guides," "tips and trends," "bookshelf" and a "link library."
The resource section isn't the place to go if you're longing for Hemingway. Articles are along the lines of "All You Need to Know about Fluorescent Lamp Disposal" and "Touch-Free Solutions for Restroom Cleanliness, Efficiency."
On the other hand, it's generally clearly written, meat-and-potatoes news you can use. Some of the articles are original content from SiteStuff; others are contributed by outside sources. Many of those outside sources are companies offering their products over SiteStuff. The online articles include fairly unobtrusive boxes that contain links to product suppliers. Overall, SiteStuff's consolidated resource section seems a savvy move: It advises and assists property owners and managers while simultaneously exposing them, with relative subtlety, to companies that advertise on the site.
'My Stuff' Streamlines PurchasingThe redesigned SiteStuff has streamlined the purchasing process through a new tool called "My Stuff." It lets users manage accounts with personalized shopping lists, order status and product data. SiteStuff's "help" function has also added !heycenter chat technology, which initiates text chats between users and service reps.
We test drove the redesigned site's "contract services" section, and found it far more helpful than during our previous visit.
Clicking on "find a provider," we searched the Atlanta area in the "Construction/Improvement" category. Our search turned up 42 companies. Each was accompanied by a click-through to a brief profile that included the company address, a contact name, phone and fax numbers, and an e-mail address.
Site Reflects Changed FocusOn the whole, the redesigned site seems to mark a significant step forward in advancing the key tenet in SiteStuff's business model: aggregating orders for supplies and other goods to cut costs. It doesn't require a huge leap of the imagination to see why Forbes named SiteStuff "one of the most promising business-to-business Web sites."
At the same time, the redesigned site marks a change in focus. Company officials said SiteStuff has shifted its efforts from attracting new clients to satisfying current ones.
The new focus is underscored by the prominent home-page positioning of the "self-guided online training" click-off. That training, which uses PlaceWare software, is aimed at an existing client base that now accounts for more than 3 billion sq. ft. (278.7 million sq. m.) of commercial and multifamily space. Thus far, SiteStuff has trained more than 6,000 users at 4,000 properties.
A parched venture capital pool has necessitated SiteStuff's delaying new applications and services. Plans for video-based customer support, for example, have been pushed back to 2002. Company officials, however, said that SiteStuff, which has received US$50 million-plus in funding, has the resources to carry it through 2002.
Octane's Three-Pronged Big IdeaAustin, Texas-based SiteStuff may well need that rainy-day capital. The site has two major competitors, Ebuyxpress (www.ebuyxpress.com) and FacilityPro (www.facilitypro.com). Given the current soft market, will the real estate industry sustain three major e-procurement initiatives?
The site also faces real estate's stubbornly ingrained fragmentation and its averseness to technology. Still other industry players seem to be taking a wait-and-see attitude, watching to see which standard emerges before committing their firms. A recent IDRC survey of corporate real estate executives, for example, found that only 24 percent of respondents said that their departments had "realized operational cost savings from Web- or Internet-based . . . applications."
The Octane Alliance will likely be a major player in setting the industry's online standards. The SiteStuff e-procurement initiative is only the first of Octane's three-pronged strategy.
The alliance has already contracted with workplaceIQ (www.workplaceiq.com) to develop what Octane calls "an open neutral exchange" for online transaction management and collaboration. Octane's third e-commerce initiative will be to fuse internal and external transactions into a single online system.
Which alliance or e-procurement site will set the industry's online standards? No one in full control of his or her faculties would venture a final answer. Almost certainly, though, those standards will be set, however long in coming. And when they are, they'll fulfill the vision that Stewart has for SiteStuff: "to change the business model of an industry."
©2001 Conway Data, Inc. All rights reserved. Data is from many sources and is not warranted to be accurate or current.