December 2, 2003, 12:00 AM

Housewares and Home Furnishings:More than in the store

(Page 2 of 4)

Most retailers attempt to appeal either to the mass market or to a niche. At BedBathandBeyond.com, retailer Bed, Bath & Beyond Inc. is doing both: pursuing the mass market with linens and other household items while going after several niche markets. And it manages to satisfy both needs.

Among the online niche efforts are a bridal registry and a wish list for college students. The gift registry allows engaged couples to register in-store or online. Couples can modify registries online any time before the wedding. Gift givers can purchase the items at the web site or the store. Many customers print out the list from the web site and buy from the store while others do all the shopping online with the purchase shipped to the bride or groom. Either way, inventory databases are integrated to make sure the registry reflects purchases in both channels.

And that’s part of the appeal of the site, analysts say. “They do a great job in integrating their multi-channels,” says Lauren Freedman, president of The E-Tailing Group Inc. “They reinforce each other.”

As part of appealing to engaged couples, the site has dozens of tips from suggestions on how to throw a bachelor party to how to choose a photographer and how to write thank you notes. Meanwhile, BedBathandBeyond.com has taken great measures to appeal to college students. Its wish list allows students to register for items to decorate their dorm rooms. Then their parents can go to the site and approve selected purchases and make payment.

As part of the collegiate appeal, BedBathandBe-yond.com has redesigned its college section to include graphics that would appeal to this crowd. It also has a section entitled “Survival 101” that in early November included suggestions for surviving the first holiday visit home and another section “After College Life” that talks about graduate school, a first job and decorating a first apartment.

But whether it is going after niches or pursing the general consumer audience, BedBathandBeyond.com is closely tied to Bed, Bath & Beyond stores. Among features are a return-to-stores policy for items purchased on the web and store circulars so Internet customers can go immediately to an item advertised in that morning’s newspaper and purchase it.

“This is a site that does things right,” says Freedman. “They have good seasonal promotions; they do a good job of educating customers and they provide efficient gift centers. Even customers who order online and pick up items in the store find the process easy and it speeds up the time they need to spend in the store.”

BedBathandBeyond.com
Date
1999
Unique Visitors (monthly)
1,293,000*
Site Design
RGA
CRM
in-house
Affiliate Management
NA
Fulfillment
in-house
Order Management
in-house
Web Analytics
Fireclick
Payment Processor
NA
Content Management
in-house
E-Mail Management
NA
Site Search
in-house
Search Engine Management
in-house
*As reported by comScore Networks Inc.

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CrateandBarrel.com
Romancing the spatula

When J.C. Williams retail consultant Jim Okamura says, “No one romanticizes the spatula like Crate & Barrel,” it’s high praise. With top-notch merchandising a distinguishing feature of brand presentation throughout all channels, Crate & Barrel excels at capturing sales from what consumers suddenly decide they want in addition to what they need. “The ability to create that demand is one of the hallmarks of great brands,” Okamura says.

The web site is just the latest channel for a brand that after more than 25 years has become the authority on hip housewares and more recently, contemporary home furnishings. After a foray in the furniture category online when it made only its casual furniture available for purchase on the web, Crate & Barrel this year expanded that option to include its entire collection, and it bends over backward to make it easy for customers to buy online. Customers considering furniture purchases can, before checkout, for example, supply a ZIP code to determine whether an item is available for shipment to their area and to get an initial read on shipping charges.

By design, the experience of the customer clicking through the site is very much like that of flipping through the catalog or walking through a Crate & Barrel store. “If you go onto the web site and see the color story and the seasonal theme, you’ll see the same story in their windows if you walk past one of the stores,” says Okamura. And the web’s integration with other channels continues behind the scenes to deliver a consistent customer experience. Gift registry users, for example, report moving seamlessly across channels whether they use the kiosks in the store, the web site or make a call after flipping through a catalog.

While integrating the store, catalog and web offering to the greatest extent possible, Crate & Barrel also exploits the web’s unique strengths. With two primary store concepts-one that carries both housewares and furnishings and one with housewares only-the web’s endless shelf space lets customers access the entire assortment through a single interface. And yet the large offering on the site doesn’t overwhelm but is folded out in a logical, intuitive fashion that draws the visitor in to discover more. In that regard, the site’s design is analogous to that of the clean-looking, simple yet stylish design of the Crate & Barrel stores and the products within. “Crate and Barrel presents so as to provide ideas and be inspirational. That’s what their brand does overall, and the web site is in line with the brand,” Okamura says.

CrateandBarrel.com
Date
1999
Unique Visitors (monthly)
709,000*
Site Design
In-house
CRM
In-house
Affiliate Management
NA
Fulfillment
NA
Order Management
NA
Web Analytics
DoubleClick
Payment Processor
Paymentech
E-Mail Management
DoubleClick
Site Search
Endeca
*As reported by comScore Networks Inc.

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