November 30, 2012, 12:00 AM

Housewares / Home / Hardware

Sites with good feng shui help shoppers find home goods.

Lead Photo

Shopping for house, home and hardware items online can feel like touring a sprawling palace of sundry-themed rooms: guidance is necessary. And that's exactly what the retailers recognized in this year's Hot 100 provide.

They prioritize navigation to help consumers wade through millions of diverse goods. Many of those retailers have also added new categories, designs and interactive elements to help shoppers, as Art.com CEO Geoffroy Martin puts it, "find what they didn't know they were looking for."

Art.com added new sections to its site that allow consumers to create personal galleries of the site's artwork, share them online and virtually see how pieces would look in their homes. It also showcases content from professional designers and artists who highlight and discuss their favorite items on the site. Home and furniture merchant Wayfair.com also makes content key in its design; an editorial director recruited from Better Homes and Gardens magazine directs the creation of original articles about furniture and designers.

Meanwhile, Crate & Barrel and BallardDesigns.com help shoppers visualize how furniture and home décor items would look in their homes. Crate & Barrel features image-based lifestyle vignettes—for example, a grandpa and grandson in a den. Shoppers may click items in the images for more product details and read related content like "6 Tips for the Whisky Connoisseur." Ballard presents products as they'd appear together in a furnished room and offers expert advice for shoppers trying to fit items in tight or unusual spaces.

Once consumers are on their way, keeping track of purchases and project plans can help simplify the process when they return. That's the goal with the MyLowe's loyalty card, which is accessible through home and hardware retailer Lowe's mobile app and allows customers to quickly access lists of products they've purchased both offline and online.

Then there's getting the items home. Flash sales retailer Fab.com has opened a 30,000-square-foot fulfillment center and says it aims to fill 70% of its orders in-house and deliver them within four days. It offers apps, too, and encourages shoppers to share what they've browsed and bought through an on-site social feed.

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