In its second-largest acquisition, Amazon buys the company for $970 million.
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Spider-Man is just one of the many comic book superheroes whose products are available at Marvel Entertainment’s e-commerce site. Shop.Marvel.com offers items in multiple incarnations, including wall decals and bobblehead dolls, and employs the bright colors that help make the characters so appealing to comic book lovers. The site organizes products by superhero-such as X-Men and Hulk-on navigation buttons along the top of the home page, and by product categories, including action figures and plush toys. The home page hero shot-appropriately-depicts Marvel comic heroes’ images on T-shirts and jackets, and cycles through three sets of images. Product reviews can be entertaining: One customer advises that a Captain America T-shirt is “not too flashy but just right to wear almost anywhere.”
Shutterfly.com is focused on options and ease of use. The e-retailer of online photo printing and related products this year launched a Storyboard Tool that chooses the layout of a photo book based on the number of pictures and orientation picked by the customer. The new feature complements such tools as Shutterfly Gallery, which allows consumers to share photo book ideas. Shoppers also can view customized photo books via a slideshow or by manually clicking through the book. And they can share the books with others. Beyond its retail site, Shutterfly also offers a mobile app for the iPhone and iPod Touch that enables users to add photos from the devices directly to their Shutterfly accounts, access Shutterfly albums and pictures, and e-mail or post photos to a web site.
SunGlass Hut.com makes the case that those pricey, rose-tinted Bulgari shades are worth it. Relaunched with e-commerce functionality a year ago, SunGlassHut.com targets both web and store shoppers, as at least 25% of the retailer’s store shoppers preshop online. There’s glossy photography and features on brands like Bulgari and Versace, with inside information on materials and designers. Category pages let consumers switch between two views, straight on and slightly to the side, which is how people shop in stores, says Marcello Favagrossa, vice president of marketing for SunGlass Hut, part of Italy-based Luxottica Group. The retailer added two-way free shipping this summer so consumers can try sunglasses on at home. “Our goal is to make the site the true epicenter of the brand,” says Favagrossa.
On the e-commerce site of Utrecht Art Supplies, artists can feed their passion for their artwork. The painter, sculptor, graphic designer and others can find on UtrechtArt.com the tools and techniques of their trade, such as details on the difference between a cotton canvas and a pre-stretched linen canvas, while also sharing ideas in online forums with pros, students and hobbyists. “Art supplies are a considered purchase our customers think long and hard about because they have an emotional connection with their artwork,” says Don Rodriguez, Internet marketing manager. UtrechtArt.com also feeds that emotional tie with frequent communi-cations on Twitter and Facebook. There’s also a UtrechtArt.com blog and links to blogs for each of the retailer’s 38 stores, providing local information.
VistaPrint, which sells print products to businesses and individuals, has made changes to its site to help it better display its products. It upped screen resolution from 800x600 pixels to 1024x768, enabling it to add more images and more content above the fold. “We used to show one featured product on pages and now we can show four,” says Jeff Prus, vice president of user experience and content. It also added more relevant testimonials. For example, the product page for customized notebooks features the first few lines of a customer comment about notebooks; users can click Read More to view the whole note. VistaPrint also changed its home page, placing categories for small businesses and consumers side by side. The old home page put consumer-oriented content below the fold.
Woot.com was among the first successful daily deal sites, and it has a particularly intense following. Woot offers one discounted item a day-often computer hardware or an electronic gadget-until the item sells out. Avid Wooters keep a running dialogue during the sale. There’s also a blog and a weekday podcast of a song or skit about the daily item. Fans eat up Woot’s witty tone and the mystery of not knowing how many items are left. And Woot knows how to generate buzz. While normally Woot doesn’t offer a new item once that day’s deal sells out, the e-retailer springs random Woot-Offs about twice a month, offering items one after another as each one sells out for up to 72 hours. Once a deal closes, Woot posts data about the sale, from sales per hour to the Woot name of the first “sucker,” that is, customer, to buy the item.