December 26, 2000, 9:55 AM

How information---not just shopping---boosts sales and keeps consumers coming back

(Page 3 of 3)

Sharples says the ability to exploit content for competitive advantage was a primary reason the founders of chose to launch a business in that market. “You need to provide a lot of information at the point of sale, such as how tall a plant grows, the amount of sun it needs and what companion plants you can grow along with it,” she says. “People need that information to make sure they are buying the right things.”

Keeping the checkout nearby

TravelSmith solved its content issues by creating the Travel Center, a special section that provides travel-related information ranging from suggested packing lists for specific types of trips to the wonders and hazards of various travel destinations. Reardon says the Travel Center-along with another feature called Ask an Outfitter-helps Travel-Smith maintain the reputation as travel experts that its catalog established. These features also provide additional opportunities for selling products through the strategic placement of product links within the content.

In developing a content strategy, Calvin says it is crucial to keep a checkout link close at hand, so consumers can switch to buying mode whenever they wish. “Even though you are operating online, you are still running a retail business,” she says. “So you have to make sure that your customers understand that they are in a store, and not in a museum or a circus that happens to sell a few things.”


Sidney Hill Jr. is an Albuquerque, N.M.-based freelance business writer.

The Keys to Successful Content

- Don’t get in the way of buying

- Be specific to products the site sells

- Hire an in-house staff

- Target content to various audiences

- Compartmentalize information

- Keep the checkout link close at hand

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