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Oftentimes retailers are not giants in their product categories. However, that sometimes can work in their favor. Such is the case with SimplySoles.com, whose size allows it to offer more personalized service than bigger competitors can. For example, the web-only retailer includes a handwritten note in each package, and employees convert European shoe sizes into U.S. sizes by trying the kicks on themselves. SimplySoles also pays special attention to its most loyal customers, serving them two pairs of shoes so they can try two sizes. SimplySoles also has some unique site features. Kassie’s Closet offers a peek into owner and founder Kassie Rempel’s personal wardrobe to show how she incorporates SimplySoles’ products into her outfits. Add to that free shipping and returns and live chat, and SimplySoles is a step above the competition.
Spanx.com is the spunky e-commerce site of Spanx Inc., a manufacturer of women’s hosiery, shapewear (today’s corsets and girdles) and intimate apparel. That personality is evident just about everywhere on the web site-from its bright pink background and funky fonts to the sassy models donning the company’s Haute Contour, lingerie-inspired shapeware on the home page’s hero shot. The site also teems with information. Product pages feature before-and-after photographs that show how each product molds a woman’s body into a flawless, bulge-free silhouette. When users mouse over the features tab under product images detailed information about the product is highlighted. For instance, shoppers can learn that the Higher Power hosiery shaper has no leg band, making it virtually invisible under clothing.
Comfort and performance are key in women’s workout apparel, and nobody does sports bras like Title Nine. The fitness wear retailer this year brought the expertise on fit long available at its call center to TitleNine.com with the debut of the Bra Genie. The feature offers a fit calculator to help find the right size and a Bra Finder that filters the selection based on what shoppers are looking for, including how much support they need. The retailer’s testers rate bras from one to five barbells on support, and shoppers can filter by number of barbells, among other parameters. A fitness-focused online community, Timeout with T9, builds relationships beyond the transaction with sections such as “Working In Working Out,” where customers share stories on how they balance work and workouts.
Tracy Porter may not have the marketing budget of big name women’s apparel and home goods e-retailers, but what it lacks in dollars it makes up in intimacy. Site visitors learn about not only the clothes and accessories on offer, but about owner and founder Tracy Porter-her life, loves and inspiration. Tracy Porter TV videos show Tracy traipsing in and around her country home, chatting about everything from how to wear a tunic to how she designs and chooses the jewelry in her collections. If shoppers crave more, they can follow Tracy on Twitter or check her out on Facebook. And when shoppers have questions about the products, help is easy to find. Each product page lists a customer service number and e-mail, an option for live chat, and links to shipping and return information.
This summer Zappos.com Inc. launched a social shopping site My.Zappos.com. When shoppers add items to the site’s online closet, friends can comment on or ask questions about those items, either on the site or on social networks like Facebook. Zappos hopes to integrate the feature into Zappos.com next year. “In a bricks-and-mortar store lots of folks shop collaboratively,” says Brian Kalma, Zappos director of user experience and web strategy. “It’s been hard to capture that online, but that’s what we’re trying to do.” Zappos’ attempts to mirror in-store shopping also led it to add product recommendations tailored to shoppers’ tastes and shopping habits, similar to those a salesperson would provide-or to recommendations offered by Amazon.com, which recently acquired Zappos.