December 26, 2000, 9:55 AM

The Mood Behind the Merchandise

(Page 3 of 3)’s Phoebe pops up in the middle of her room on the home page. When customers click on various items in her room, Phoebe guides them through a particular service. Her computer is a conduit to opening an e-mail account, while her shopping bag leads to BlueAsphalt’s clothing section. Phoebe adds a fun, video game aspect to the site. Besides, if she bothers you, you can take out your revenge by giving her a makeover. Green lipstick, anyone?

The ins & outs of ambience


Here’s how consultants and retailers lay down the rules over summoning up a Web store’s mood.

- Make your site the salesperson: Use your knowledge of your customers’ demographics, wants and needs to make it easy as possible to find and purchase what they’re seeking.

- Simplicity sells: Strive for a simple design, limiting use of features and special effects-such as streaming video-that require large amounts of bandwidth.

- Testing 1, 2 ,3: Use focus groups to ensure your site is easy to navigate, with a 56Kbps modem-the standard for most users.

- Shoot for the Web: Use high-resolution color photography specifically for the Web, rather than recycling shots taken for catalogs and other media.

- Personalize: Consider digital personal shoppers or online guides to personalize your contact with customers, such as BlueAsphalt’s host, Phoebe.

- Interact: Use chat rooms and customer surveys to solicit customer input and build an online community.

- Do the impossible: Use the power of digital technology to perform feats that aren’t possible-or practical-in the real world. For example: virtual store layouts that instantly reconfigure to highlight the desired merchandise or product category.

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