July 27, 2006, 12:00 AM

Internet Retailer 2006: Report from the conference

(Page 2 of 9)

"Though it represents only a small portion of the overall wireless revenue of telecommunications carriers, revenue from wireless data connectivity and services is heating up," Biniak said. He spoke June 6 in an address titled "Wireless Web: Cashing In When the Buying Impulse Strikes" at the Internet Retailer 2006 Conference & Exhibition.

AG Interactive began experimenting with mobile e-commerce three years ago, selling ring-tones, games and wallpapers. However, revenue was insufficient to support the program, and a lack of mobile telecommunications standards among carriers dampened the effort.

After the initial experiment, the company decided to focus mobile e-commerce efforts on two demographics it determined were most likely to purchase via mobile phone.

"African-Americans and Hispanics own more than one device, are first to buy new ones, use textmessaging more, and spend more on mobility," Biniak says. "And they often create what becomes mainstream in popular culture."

The company is investigating the lack of mobile telecommunications standards, knowing retailers for the time being cannot create one overarching mobile system but instead must develop different applications for varying mobile devices. It also is honing itsoverall mobile efforts, Biniak says, ready to follow where customers lead.

Content is king

Delivering Web Content That`s Focused on Customer Needs
John Thompson, senior vice president and general manager, BestBuy.com

When seeking to deliver the best and most focused e-commerce site content, retailers must know their customers very, very well, says BestBuy.com.

There are numerous ways to communicate with customers, and e-retailers must draw on all of them to accumulate and analyze information on customers` wishes and needs, says John Thompson, senior vice president and general manager at BestBuy.com.

"Customers are unique, and e-retailers need to create customer databases to best understand them," Thompson advised. He spoke June 6 in an address titled "Delivering Web Content That`s Focused on Customer Needs" at the Internet Retailer 2006 Conference & Exhibition. "Know your customers, listen to their needs and focus sharply on their unmet needs. In the process, make certain to stay true to your brand and not make investments you can`t pay for."

Best Buy Co. Inc. operates six e-commerce sites and 930 retail stores. Multi-channel retailers like Best Buy have far more opportunities than pure-plays and catalogers to understand and address customer needs, Thompson added. "Multi-channel retailers must have very engaged employees on the front lines of all sales channels, employees who can learn a ton about shoppers` desires and in turn help mold online content."

It`s a "customer-centric journey," he said, that requires retailers to stay on top of change and prioritize methods to quickly meet changing customer needs.

Getting it right

Traps to Avoid in Creating and Operating Retail Web Sites
Lauren Freedman, president, the e-tailing group Inc.
David Fry, president and CEO, Fry Inc.
Jim Okamura, senior partner, J.C. Williams Group
W. Gregory Dowling, senior analyst, JupiterResearch

Web site design should aim at "giving customers` what they want," says Lauren Freedman, president, The E-Tailing Group. A recent J.C. Williams/E-Tailing Group study found that 92% of shoppers said customer reviews are helpful. Other functions rated highly by shoppers were onsite keyword search (71%), store locator (68%), product comparison (64%) and zoom/rotate (64%).

Consumers responding to a JupiterResearch survey expressed similar opinions, says W. Gregory Dowling, senior analyst. They cited clarity, simplicity, efficiency and relevant content as important features of a retail site, second only to security. "Usability is very important," he said.

Even detailing shipping information early on in a shopper`s visit to a retail site has been shown to increase conversions, said David Fry, president, Fry Inc. "Provide plenty of information early and often, and the more information, the better," he said.

Online gift registries also can boost conversion rates. "They`re a huge source of revenue opportunities," Fry said. "More than 50% of registry purchases begin and end online."

In addition, by using comparison shopping engines, a retailer can bring new customers to its site, he said.

And retailers should not ignore other channels when designing web sites, said Jim Okamura, senior partner, J.C. Williams. "Multi-channel shopping behavior is now the norm," he said. That means there must be consistent content, branding and pricing across channels. "There`s more to it than just saying you`re a multi-channel retailer."

Taking Web Site Design and Content to the Next Level
Track A -- June 6

A new look

Redesigns: The Need for Them and Strategy Behind Them
Geoffrey Robertson, vice president of eCommerce, J.C. Whitney Inc.
Debbie Hess, Internet marketing director, Norm Thompson Outfitters

Sometimes a web site just cries out for a redesign. For auto parts cataloger J.C. Whitney, that cry came in the form of a low add-to-cart rate and online average order values $20 below catalog orders, Geoffrey Robertson, vice president of e-commerce, told IR2006 attendees. In addition, J.C. Whitney wanted to increase the spiderability of the site. "We were one of the largest in the industry but couldn`t get in the top 10 positions (in search results)," he said.

For Norm Thompson Outfitters, outdated creative and site architecture, inconsistency between the site and other channels and brand direction, and outdated platform technology led to a site redesign, said Debbie Hess, Internet marketing director. After the redesign, customer satisfaction scores rose and web orders set new records, she said.

At J.C. Whitney, redesign led to an 8% increase in conversion rates and a 4% increase in average order, Robertson said.

Small changes, big results

How Small Design Changes Can Yield Big Conversion Rate Gains
Jeff Schueler, president, Usability Sciences Corp.
Lynette Montgomery, general manager of e-commerce, Levenger Co.

Even something as simple as integrating account creation with the checkout process can lift conversion rates, Jeff Schueler, president, Usability Sciences Corp., told a packed IR2006 breakout session. "People don`t like to register," he said. "Make the creation of the ID and password the last step in checkout--after you have their cash."

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