The company has been forced to close stores and beef up its online offerings as direct marketers of PCs, such as Dell and Gateway 2000, become more and more successful at luring technology-savvy customers away from Egghead's brick-and-mortar stores.
The software and hardware retailer has added avatars, graphical icons that will appear as salespeople on the virtual store. The avatars will be online during the hours posted on the store's home page, and will answer customers' questions and assist them with purchases.
The virtual salespeople were built using real-time multimedia communication software from The Palace.
"Our virtual storefront, staffed with salespeople you can talk to, is the solution to the lack of interactivity found on most commerce sites," said Steve Gere, Internet strategic planner for Egghead, in a statement today.
This is Egghead's second attempt to advance into the direct channel by revamping its site. In September, Egghead added features that allowed users to see inventory and product information in real time. Egghead also added an electronic "shopping cart," to save consumers the hassle of downloading each software title as it is purchased.
The retailer also acquired direct PC marketer Surplus Direct in September, following the shut-down of half of its 156 stores in January.
Egghead improved its balance sheet for the first quarter of this year, posting a net loss of $3.7 million, compared to a loss of $12.4 million for the first quarter last year. The company attributed the improvement to the money saved by the closing of the stores.
Egghead also announced today that it will begin offering special events at its online store. The retailer additionally will offer discounts to those who attend the online events.