Minding the Digital Business

“Our business is in a developing market, and it’s a good place to be,” says Scott Talley (M.B.A. ’05) , vice president of logistics and human resources for PFSweb.

New technologies redefine the relationship between company and consumer as e-commerce unites the global marketplace

By David McKay Wilson

At a one-million-square-foot warehouse in Memphis, Tenn., Scott Talley (M.B.A. ’05) stands ready to expedite orders with a few clicks of his mouse.

His inventory includes popular brands such as Carter’s and Liz Claiborne that cater to the growing number of online shoppers. Talley, vice president of logistics and human resources for PFSweb, understands the importance of e-commerce as it commands greater pieces of the global retail pie.

“We’ve been able to put together the infrastructure that enables fast, accurate fulfillment and customized packaging, and we do it as cost-effectively as possible,” says Talley. “Our business is in a developing market, and it’s a good place to be.”

For PFSweb, getting to the cutting edge of online retail sales took a strong team and technology from a web platform called DemandWare, which provides everything from the digital catalog for ordering to the warehouse management system that picks the most efficient pathway for workers to find the products in the warehouse’s maze of shelves.

“The world revolves around logistics, and technology enables logistics,” says Valencia de la Vega (M.B.A. ’05), who works at Intel in Chandler, Ariz., as the sorttest technical development tooling program manager, designing systems to test chips whose end users include the U.S. Army, Wall Street financial firms, and Google. “Commerce can happen online because it’s reliable,” she says.

Vega, who received her bachelor’s degree in nuclear engineering at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, adds that her users cannot afford to have their servers go down. Imagine, she says, if the Army’s computers went down when it needed to order more ammunition for combat zones.

De la Vega and Talley are among the multitudes of NYIT graduates contributing to a technology-fueled transformation of the global marketplace. A May 2010 U.S. Census Bureau report showed that e-commerce in the retail sector grew from $137 billion to $142 billion in 2007-2008, comprising 3.6 percent of total retail sales. In the manufacturing sector, e-commerce commands 39 percent of the market, with $2.2 trillion in goods shipped to businesses through online sales.

As de la Vega asserts, e-commerce is grounded on the reliability of the Internet and security systems that enable financial transactions to speed across the globe within seconds. Online sales evolved from the early successes of electronic transactions in the late 1970s, when purchase orders and invoices were transmitted through Electronic Data Interchange. Faxes came next, with orders pouring in over phone lines. The growth of ATMs and telephone banking in the 1980s presaged the explosion of commerce on the World Wide Web in the mid-1990s,following the 1995 launch of Amazon.

Today, online shopping has a firm foothold in both the retail and wholesale marketplace as computers have become ubiquitous in homes and workplaces. Families order groceries online. Travel is booked over the Internet. Classified ads and job offerings proliferate on the Web. And thanks to high-speed broadband connections, the infrastructure exists to transmit files such as movies, books, or music— creating a new market, as products are transferred digitally vs. physically.

“The Internet has changed the nature of what’s sold,” says Art Nehr, an adjunct professor in NYIT’s School of Management and president of Commack, N.Y.-based Web Optimized Marketing, which helps companies promote their services online. “Buyers and sellers are put in direct contact, and this can eliminate the middleman.”

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