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FAO Schwarz was acquired early this year by The Right Start Inc., a retailer of educational toys. To leverage the long-running FAO Schwarz brand, the merged company took on the name FAO Inc. In addition to its stores, it operates three linked retail sites: FAO.com, RightStart.com and ZanyBrainy.com.
Under its new parent, FAO Schwarz continues to present an image of an innovative toy seller that strives to make shopping, both offline and online, fun. Although its web site may never offer the hands-on experience of in-store shopping, it does offer unusually helpful displays and large, high-resolution photographs. “They provide a good presentation of the product assortment and typically include graphics that show children playing with the toys, providing a sense of scale,” says Justin Cassey, a retail analyst with Kurt Salmon Associates.
The site offers 56 brands and lets shoppers browse by several categories, including brand, age, exclusive FAO offerings, and boutiques that provide groups of playthings and learning tools.
And to make browsing easy, FAO.com provides a scrolling bar of images of alternate products, each of which can be clicked on for more details and purchasing options. “FAO.com is easy to navigate and quite useful,” Cassey says.
Mindseye Inc. and in-house
Page Digital Inc.
Page Digital Inc.
Chase Merchant Services Inc.
Macromedia Inc.’s Spectra and
*As reported by comScore Networks Inc.
When you’ve got a catalog as jam-packed as automotive accessories retailer J.C. Whitney Inc.’s, you can’t test a lot of new products. The risk of allowing the equivalent of an Edsel to occupy profitable catalog real estate is just too high. But not so with the web. “The web site has allowed us a lot more experimentation with products,” says Geoff Robertson, director of technology at Chicago-based J.C. Whitney. “It’s really helped us get a better understanding of the marketplace.”
Customers coming to JCWhitney.com today find nine specialty shops front and center on the home page, including such shops as sport compact, Jeep CJ and Wrangler, ATV and RV. “These appeal to lifestyles and target consumer segments that don’t get the catalog,” Robertson says. “You just can’t craft a catalog on some of those specialty shops.”
The company also hopes that specialty shops will attract younger customers. So far, it appears to be working: J.C. Whitney’s typical customer is a do-it-yourselfer in his 50s; the specialty shops are shifting that age younger, Robertson says.
J.C. Whitney put up a brochure site in 1998 as the start of its web experimentation. It began selling and accepting payment on the web in 1998 and today as much as 30% of its business is coming from the web.
JCWhitney.com has been a surprise hit with customers. Traffic has tripled in the past year from 800,000 a month to 2.4 million. “When I was determining a year ago how much technology we needed to support the site, I was expecting a 100% to 150% increase,” Robertson says. And even while the web brings in new customers, the catalog is driving much of the web sales. “When we increase catalog circulation, Internet traffic rises,” Robertson says. The catalog drives about 40% of the web sales, he says.
With 37,000 products on the web site vs. 60,000 in the catalog, the company is now putting the entire catalog online in the form of a PDF, with more of the specialized, hard-to-find products in the catalog PDF.
Interestingly, the average web order is 5%-10% below the average catalog order, leading the company to conclude that it is attracting new customers through its web presence. But once the customer becomes comfortable with J.C. Whitney and starts ordering from both channels, he becomes a much more valuable customer than either the catalog customer or the web customer, buying 1.5 times a year vs. once a year for the single channel customer, with an average order 10% higher. “The web will become a strategic channel for us as we move forward,” Robertson says. 50
Renaissance, eGain Communications Corp.
Commission Junction Inc.
Manhattan Associates Inc.’s PkMS in own distribution center
Genco Distribution System
NetIQ Corp.’s WebTrends
Pivia Inc., in-house
As with most other retail sites, Noah Garden’s e-commerce operation gets a big spike around Christmas. But what about those other spikes in April, July and September?