November 21, 2008, 12:00 AM

Apparel & Accessories

(Page 5 of 9)

Plenty of small features- Quick Look, mouse-over zoom, a pop-up shopping bag-make the sites helpful and convenient. “Retail is detail,” Lenk said. “It’s about the sum of all these little details and getting them just right to create great online shopping experiences.”

Gap’s e-commerce sites are very sophisticated and are examples of excellent usability, says e-commerce consultant Erin Cisney of Ciztek Consulting, and the company is far ahead of shopping cart vendors, none of which offer systems that can handle multiple stores well. “Gap’s multi-store approach,” Cisney says, “is really great.” Back to top


Karma chameleon
Karmaloop.com is nothing if not dynamic. It has to be. The e-retailer of urban streetwear caters to young, cutting-edge city-dwellers, so staying atop the latest trends-both in apparel and in the features on its web site-is top priority. And it shows.

Karmaloop.com has embraced the community craze with blogs, widgets and ties to social networks such as Facebook and Flickr. Next came KarmaloopTV, launched in November 2007 and accessible from the retailer’s home page. It doesn’t sell a lick but instead serves up dozens of edgy videos covering fashion, music and culture complete with prominent sponsorship from such brands as Southern Comfort.

The goal is to make Karmaloop more than just a retailer, but a household name, entertainment provider and destination site, says Greg Selkoe, founder and CEO. And, Selkoe adds, the advertising revenue and increased traffic to Karmaloop.com from Karmaloop.com/tv is a nice bonus.

Other features supporting the community vibe include Karmaloop Kazbah, where artists can sell their own designs, and the Karmaloop Rep Program that rewards consumers for referring friends to the retailer.

But for all its efforts to offer fresh content, Anne Brouwer partner at retail consultancy McMillan Doolittle LLP, says some areas on the site are uncharacteristically behind the times.

“With all the breadth and depth of content and attitude, there are some surprising misses,” Brouwer says. “Much of the content is very dated, with some posts over two years old. And many of the contests and event listings have no dates at all, but are clearly expired.”

Nevertheless, Karmaloop is surging full steam ahead with new initiatives. The latest project? Jungle Life, a social networking web site that Selkoe envisions appealing to artists, musicians and other creative types.

Focusing on projects that are not directly related to selling merchandise, such as Jungle Life and KarmaloopTV, is a departure from the standard retailing playbook, and not for every e-retailer, Selkoe says. “Maybe in the orthodoxy of retailing, we aren’t following the rules,” he says. “But we don’t profess to be an orthodox retailer.” Back to top


See it your way
Online shoppers are becoming more sophisticated, and expect a more store-like shopping experience that makes it easy to find products and get help from a sales representative. That means retailers must look at every page on an e-commerce site and ask who it targets and whether the information there leads the shopper to make a purchase.

Keeping those principles in mind, Lands’ End redesigned its category pages so shopper’s can filter products in multiple ways, for instance, by size, collar style, fabric and sleeve length for men’s shirts and sweaters. A click on a color box changes the color of an item in a product photo. Shoppers can rotate the model 360 degrees to see the item from various vantage points.

Shoppers having trouble making up their mind about an item can request a free color swatch, which usually arrives in three to four business days. The swatch allows shoppers to examine the look and feel of the fabric, which is an important element of recreating the in-store shopping experience.

The features are meant to address the needs that stores satisfy with sales personnel and fitting rooms. Live chat and “call me” buttons appear on most pages throughout the site, beginning with the home page, making it easy for consumers to get help.

“Lands’ End delivers an interactive feel that makes shopping more like an in-store experience,” says Chris Vicente, senior manager, Products Consumer Markets Group for consulting firm BearingPoint. “The live chat and live help call features do a good job translating their sales expertise to the web.”

“This is a retailer that is known for quality, simplicity, and having a well organized, easy-to-navigate catalog, and their site is visually appealing and exactly what shoppers expect,” says Lee Diercks, a partner and managing director for Clear Thinking Group LLC. “They do e-retailing as well as anyone.”

Many consumers apparently agree, as LandsEnd.com earned a top three ranking of 39 apparel retailers in a recent Consumer Reports survey of more than 25,000 online shoppers. The Land’s End site scored 89 out of 100 possible points. Back to top


Living up to its brand
When you have a brand that’s nearly synonymous with a kind of product, as Levi’s is with blue jeans, trekking into e-commerce requires careful steps to protect the brand.

That’s why Levi Strauss & Co. set out to make Levi.com the ultimate place to shop for jeans, says Patrice Varni, vice president in charge of the e-commerce site.

“We went through a major site redesign in August 2008, with improved navigation and browsing functionality, to make finding and comparing jeans easy,” Varni says.

Shoppers on Levi.com can choose from among multiple types of jeans by resorting selections without leaving a web page; so, for example, they can view only boot-cut jeans or only jeans under the retailer’s eco brand. A Gift Guide recommends jeans by type of customer, then offers matching tops and accessories.

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