November 30, 2007, 12:00 AM

Apparel & Accessories Bringing merchandise and the store to online shoppers

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Kohl`s is making other site improvements such as an improved gift shop that features a gift-wrapping service and personalized registry. "We continue to develop site functionality each year to improve presentation and create a better shopping experience," Molitor says.

By the holidays, Kohls.com will carry about the same number of SKUs as a typical Kohl`s store, an important initiative as Kohl`s seeks out more multi-channel opportunities in merchandising areas such as fine jewelry, women`s apparel and handbags. Other enhancements include the introduction of two microsites that feature designer products from Vera Wang and the Food Network.

E-commerce analysts are noticing the turnaround. "It`s clear that Kohl`s is beginning to understand what their customers want in a web site," says Shari Altman, president of consulting firm Altman Dedicated Direct. "The bottom navigation on the home page breaks the store down into the areas a shopper would be most interested in." Back to top


Living up to the swoosh

Edgy, cool and nearly universally known, the Nike brand and its iconic swoosh logo demand a site that says cutting edge. Nike`s e-commerce site, NikeStore.com, does not disappoint.

Framed by a black background, handsome central images rotate every few seconds, and products and text drop into view, bouncing a little as they settle in. Mousing over smaller bottom-edge images pops up the graphic along with links to sub-categories. The NikeiD, an online sneaker customization feature introduced way back in 1999, allows customers to choose the color of every piece of a shoe, including the swoosh.

"It`s spot on from what you`d expect from Nike," says Scott Kincaid, vice president of usability practices at online consulting firm Usability Sciences Corp. "The graphics are great. It has a very sophisticated feel that I`m sure is what customers expect from Nike."

"We`re Nike and we try to be as innovative as we can, and provide an industry-leading experience," says Chris Shimojima, vice president of global digital commerce for Beaverton, Ore.-based Nike.

An example of how the web site reinforces the brand is Nike+, a shoe launched in spring 2006 in cooperation with Apple Inc. that contains a chip that lets runners keep track of their time, pace, distance, even calories burned, and get feedback through their iPod nano music player as they run.

At Nikeplus.com, runners can share their results with others and issue and accept challenges. "It`s part of something bigger in terms of engagement and deepening the dialogue with customers," Shimojima says. "It`s a brand relationship driving experience."

The site also stands out for a left side navigation bar that provides a series of sub-categories that roll up as the customer makes a selection, revealing more ways to narrow a search.

Kincaid is concerned that all the filtering options are not visible from the start, and that some visitors might not recognize the down arrows that indicate more options to come. "We`re not 100% satisfied with the navigation," Shimojima says. "We`ll continue to improve." Back to top


The shoe fits
Fashion of the moment at an accessible price point—that`s what NineWest is all about, and its e-commerce site, NineWest.com, incorporates that philosophy with features and functions that make accessible to customers not only fashion-forward products, but also content about what drives the brand.

Features new with the summer`s site redesign include across the top navigation bar on the home page, the Lookbook, Scene & Seen and Designing Nine. The Lookbook is a lifestyle merchandising concept that shows head-to-toe apparel looks for the season, incorporating both shoes, which are NineWest`s heritage, and a broader selection of apparel, most recently a denim collection, which is available both on the site and at Jones` department store partners.

Scene & Seen provides customers with an editorial perspective on what fashion and women`s media have picked as favorite looks of the season from NineWest, while Designing Nine offers the inside scoop on the latest buzz in fashion as well as a peek into the design process and what inspires it.

"It hearkens back to the idea of accessibility and allows our customer to feel like she is a part of the process," says Ron Offir, president of e-commerce at Bristol, Pa.-based Jones Apparel Group Inc, which owns NineWest. The redesign builds on that notion with the addition of a reviews feature that gives customers a voice on the site.

Beyond the new features that better expose the brand, this year`s redesign also aligns the look of the web site with the look of NineWest stores. "Our stores are very modern and clean-looking. They allow the product to be the hero. We did the same with our site," Offir says.

Lauren Freedman, president of The E-Tailing Group, says the redesign succeeds with features such as Scene & Seen bringing the brand to life and flash imagery conveying a sense of excitement. She also calls out the My Closet area, a wish list, which encourages shoppers to "admit your cravings" and fill it with favorites. "That really speaks to their customer, who is a shoe fan," she says. Back to top


Building a community
Pacific Sunwear of California Inc. has made a career of knowing how to connect with its teen and young adult demographic. What began as a solo surf shop in Newport Beach, Calif., in 1980 is now a national retail chain based in Anaheim with more than 1,100 stores and several web sites. The flagship e-commerce site, PacSun.com, has continued the company`s tradition of relating to its consumer base by featuring an active lifestyle that promotes involvement in surfing, skateboarding and snowboarding.

The web site added several features in 2007, all aimed at building a sense of community among visitors and shoppers. "New content is part of our strong focus on expanding community, both on and offsite," says Stacy Clark, senior director of e-commerce and online marketing.

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