January 17, 2002, 12:00 AM

The crumbling of community at retail sites

Community, once touted as a prime way to attract consumers to web sites and entice them to spend, is rapidly falling out of favor, several speakers at this week’s NRF Convention and Expo in New York said.

Another once widely held belief about what the web should do and how it should do it crumbles. Community, once touted as a prime way to attract consumers to web sites and engage them once they’re there to the point that they’ll want to buy something, is rapidly falling out of favor. Several speakers at this week’s National Retail Federation Convention and Expo in New York said they are re-thinking the value of community. “In the past year, we have seen much less emphasis on community at retail sites,” Lauren Freedman, president of Chicago-based consultants the e-tailing group inc., said during the Online Merchandising Strategy session.

Freedman’s comments were backed up by the experience at eBags.com, once of the largest proponents of providing deep web content. “People get off into a loop and end up not spending very much,” said Peter Cobb, co-founder and vice president of marketing. “Content isn’t driving revenue.”

Communities contributed to site stickiness, many believed. But now even the concept of site stickiness, just 18 months ago thought to be a measure of the extent to which customers were relating to a site, has fallen on hard times. “Site stickiness is out,” Mike Matacunas, partner in retail consulting in IBM Corp.’s Business Innovation Service, said during the Future of E-Business Session. “Retailers are engaging the customer, but they’re doing it while taking out the stuff that doesn’t add value.”

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