September 29, 2010, 12:22 PM

An e-retailer stresses strong ties to suppliers as well as customers

Shoebuy.com CEO stresses the need for retailers to offer robust customer service.

Thad Rueter

Senior Editor

Lead Photo

A screengrab from Shoebuy's flash-sale site.

Online retailers should never forget why they created their businesses, and always remember to maintain strong relationships with both their customers and vendors, Scott Savitz, CEO of Shoebuy.com, told attendees today during a keynote address at the Shop.org conference just outside Dallas.

Since launching in 1999, web-only retailer Shoebuy.com has managed to survive the bursting of the dot.com investment bubble and the economic downtown that began in 2008.

It has managed to do so, according to Savitz, because Shoebuy has always put its customer first. For Shoebuy, that has meant displaying its toll-free customer service numbers on each page of its site and offering free shipping, including for returns.  The retailer also gives its customers a voice through Facebook and Twitter and by enabling customers to comment on its blog and through product reviews.

The retailer also serves its customers by offering a variety of ways to pay, including PayPal, the Japan-based JCB credit card brand, eBillme and Moneta, the last two payment systems that draw on funds in consumers’ bank accounts. "You are giving customers a choice," he said.

The payoff from those efforts has been consumers returning to the site, as 68% of the retailer's sales come from repeat customers, up from less than 20% a decade ago, Savitz said.

Savitz also urged retailers to forge longstanding relationships with vendors. "You and your vendors should be partners," he said. "We don't try to out-negotiate or out-maneuver our brands or vendors so they lose money."

Retailers also need to continue to innovate, he said. For instance, Shoebuy, No. 77 in the Internet Retailer Top 500 Guide, recently launched a private flash-sale site where members can take advantage of 48-hour sales from such brands as Rockport and Aerosoles. Since launching the private-sale site in March, the e-retailer has received at least 20,000 consumer requests for membership each week, said Savitz.

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