November 30, 2007, 12:00 AM

Sporting Goods Sites give customers bragging rights

(Page 2 of 4)

Between retail shops and kiteboarding schools, Best Kiteboarding has about 500 commercial accounts worldwide, and both their numbers and purchase volume are growing fast, Lawson says. The company has 12 sales reps across the world managing those accounts, and the web service center that debuted earlier this year has eased their burdens considerably.

The resellers` center provides support in half a dozen languages, a capability that Lawson plans to expand to the consumer site early in 2008. "We`re small but global," he says. Back to Top


Physical and social
Bodybuilding.com has been busy consolidating its position not only as a top fitness Internet retailer but as a social hub for the bodybuilding community. User forums have been an important community element, racking up 19 million messages in the past five years. And its social network, BodySpace, where members can post photos of themselves, describe their workout goals and blog about their progress, has tallied more than 117,000 active users since its launch in January.

The e-retailer plans to intensify the social aspects of its site in 2008. "It won`t be just, `Here`s the product you should buy,` but `Here are BodySpace members you should know and content you should read,` based on what a customer`s needs and goals are," says CEO Ryan DeLuca. "We`ve just launched a workout tracker so people can follow each other`s progress. You can show your friends online what you`re doing, and people can have virtual workout partners. The main idea is to keep people motivated and excited about working out."

That enthusiasm could translate to major sales growth: DeLuca is projecting $122 million next year, up from a projected $90 million this year.

"There is no doubt our community and social networking offerings are making a big difference for sales and conversion," DeLuca says. "Since we added BodySpace, our average order size is up nearly $10 to $92.41, and our conversion rate is 8%, up from 7% a year ago. That one percentage point is huge."

Also this year, the site beefed up its use of online video. Bodybuilding.com hosts 24 different bodybuilding programs, each with multiple episodes. And live webcasts from bodybuilding shows have proven extremely popular.

While the content side of Bodybuilding.com is getting more social, the commerce side is getting more personal, observes Craig Smith, founder of consulting firm Trinity Insights. "Most retailers structure their categories by product, but Bodybuilding.com structures some of their navigation by fitness goal, whether it`s for muscle builders, fat loss products or energy enhancers. This structure helps users quickly find the products that meet their intrinsic goals or desires, and likely increases conversion rates." Back to Top


Good hunting
Cabelas.com continues to build on a legacy of distinction. To keep traffic and web sales growing, the specialty retailer of hunting, fishing, camping and related outdoor merchandise has implemented a number of e-commerce technology upgrades. Cabela`s has improved site navigation and product display and added zoom technology and product views that shoppers can see in three dimensions, not an easy task for a retailer carrying online inventory of about 171,000 SKUs.

Shoppers can search for items by categories, including hunting, archery, shooting gear, dog supplies, optics, electronics, men`s hunting clothing and women`s and children`s clothing. Other search options include camping, auto and ATV, food and food prep, and home and cabin.

The site also has a section for overstock, special buy and clearance items called Bargain Cave, which can be accessed from the home page.

Shoppers also can view product reviews, buyers` guides, articles and Cabela`s Memories in the Field, videos in which Cabela`s customers recount their outdoor adventures. In one recent episode, two hunters in Colorado chased mule deer, a fisherman in Alaska reeled in a gigantic halibut, and hunters in South Carolina pursued turkeys.

Cabela`s outdoor info section--which carries information for the "serious outdoorsman"--covers topics such as field test reports on binoculars, charts comparing similar products and field clips.

"Cabela`s is a great site," says Roseanne Morrison, fashion director at Doneger Consulting. "It`s really easy to use. And it`s not just clothing, but all the gear that you use hunting."

Cabelas.com also was named the best shopping experience among 20 major U.S. retail sites in a 2006 benchmark study released by Cisco Systems` Internet Business Solutions Group. Included in the study were the top 10 U.S. web retailers (by revenue) in 2004, and several leading big-box and discount retailers.

Cisco cited Sidney, Neb.-based Cabela`s strong online look, feel and brand image consistent with store and catalog experiences. Back to Top


Winning the web game
Each sport is different, and its adherents have unique sensibilities. DicksSportingGoods.com attempts to appeal to those sensibilities by giving each of its product pages a distinctive flair that`s associated with the sport being featured.

Golfers are greeted by flowing green fairways. A "handicap tracker" invites them to list their scores and have their handicaps calculated.

Anglers and hunters enter pages that put them beside lakes or deep in the woods. They can post photos of their catch on "bragging boards."

All the pages "have the same shopping core," says Jeff Hennion, senior vice president and marketing manager for Dick`s, "but the feel is different to make customers feel at home. It`s important that our web site brings across the same energetic feel that you get when you visit our stores."

Pittsburgh-based Dick`s, with 340 stores, overhauled its web site last year, "to give customers an experience online as good as they can get in our stores," says Hennion. It does that through clean and easy navigation and dramatic action photos, as well as sound.

Gene Alvarez, vice president at Gartner, Inc., a technology research and consulting firm, says Dick`s redesign pulled off the nifty trick of being both visually compelling and extremely user friendly, allowing for quick navigating and shopping.

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