Dell Computer Corp.

Taking Personalization To the Limit on the Web

When it comes to personalized computers, no one does it quite like Dell Inc. Early on, people chuckled to think that consumers would purchase computers via mail order and the Web when they could just drive down to their local computer store to pick one out in person. In 1984, aspiring entrepreneur Michael Dell proved them wrong, and has been doing so ever since.

As company chairman and CEO, Dell founded his firm with $1,000 and an unprecedented idea: to sell computer systems directly to customers. Today, the company employs approximately 78,700 team members worldwide and posted first quarter 2007 gross sales of $14.4 billion. The company is a premier provider of computing products and services to the world's largest corporations, including many of the companies on the Fortune 500.

Dell's popularity and success stems from the fact that its "sell direct" model starts and ends with its customers. The philosophy has served it well: according to a July 2003 Gartner Group report, Dell generated double-digit growth year-over-year in the U.S. for six consecutive quarters, while its nearest competitors experienced erratic growth or declines over the same period.

Dell prides itself in its ability to provide value, quality, relevant technology, customized systems, superior service and support, and products and services that are easy to buy and use. Its business model is based on five basic business tenets: Direct is the most efficient path to the customer; customers want a single point of accountability; provide customers with exactly what they want by building-to-order; stay the low-cost leader; and provide customers with relevant, high-value products and services.

From the company's start page, shoppers are prompted to select the company's consumer, business or public (government entities, for example) shopping site. Once there, buyers get an eyeful of recommendations, price rollbacks on certain models, shopping assistance and even "buying alternatives," such as refurbished computers. Dell offers extensive buying guides in its learning center, and a variety of payment options (including a preferred account that can be approved in less than 60 seconds) – and it's all in the name of making the shopping experience as easy as possible for customers.

With more than 20 years of experience under its belt, Dell's personalization strategies shine through on the Web – a place where many other firms have tried and failed. By presenting much more than just business information and a shopping cart, its site is designed to cater to and attract consumers. Through a largely self-service format, Dell puts the shopping power in its customers' hands, allowing them to select and customize the computer that truly meets their needs.