November 30, 2005, 12:00 AM

Specialty/Non apparel Creating the special tie that binds

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The level of content provided not only makes it easier for online shoppers to reach purchasing decisions, but it also makes it easier for non-outdoorsmen to select gifts and it brings online shoppers to stores and vice versa. “They have created a strong multi-channel shopping experience,” adds Okamura.

To boost overall sales and recover lost sales opportunities, recently launched a follow-up e-mail campaign aimed at those who abandon shopping carts and those who browsed but did not buy. Customers visiting the site who don’t purchase receive an e-mail three days later with pitches for items previously considered, as well as like products at the same price point. The idea is to create a customer service-oriented approach that wins business.

To prevent customers who have opted in to’s mailing list from being overwhelmed with e-mail marketing, those contacted as part of the program are removed from the regular e-mail list the week they become part of the follow-up campaign. Even if a prospect does not buy online, there is a high probability he will visit a store to make the purchase.

“Bass Pro Shops understands how to cater to both the online shopper and the in-store shopper and get each to use the other channel,” says Okamura. “It’s why they are leaders in multi-channel shopping.”
The booksellers’ bookseller may not have the name recognition of, but the online retailer of rare, used and out-of-print books has made its mark as an online marketplace for 3,500 independent booksellers worldwide.

But is more than a network of booksellers. It also is a treasure trove of information on more than 25 million titles, giving details on pricing, publishing dates, binding, condition and other information to help consumers in making purchases. “The majority of the data you see on a book title is provided by the bookseller,” says Kevin Donaldson, director of sales and marketing. “We want consumers to know what they’re getting.” also provides general information, such as plot synopsis, author biographies, book reviews and book cover images, through third-party content provider Muze Inc. recently added a feature that allows students to search for textbooks using ISBNs (International Standard Book Number), a unique identifier. will only list items from professional booksellers with inventories of 200 or more titles, Donaldson says. The exceptions are rare book sellers, who may have smaller inventories.

But visitors to the site can do more than just buy books. hosts an online community forum on book collecting and buying where visitors can seek advice or post comments. Discussion topics include how to collect and identify first editions and signed books and how to repair and care for old books. It also is a forum for sellers to discuss trade topics and issues, get tips for selling books on and find information on software. has focused on enriching the content of the site, leaving inventory and fulfillment in the hands of independent booksellers, Donaldson says. The company serves as the initial contact for customer service inquiries, forwarding them to the booksellers. However, he adds: “We deal immediately and directly ourselves with problems with the bookseller not fulfilling orders appropriately or fraud issues or any problems like that.” also will provide payment processing to booksellers who don’t want to set up merchant accounts.
No playing around


If you’re selling toys online, one of the most critical tasks is to help shoppers find the perfect gift for a youngster. And while eToys has always excelled at this task through its “Find A Gift” feature, its ability to guide shoppers to just the right toy has been enhanced even more.

After months of focus group input, eToys made modifications to its navigation system in October and expanded its product categories. The result was a 20% increase in its conversion rate, according to Michael J. Wagner, eToys CEO.

Using the gift finder, shoppers begin by stating the child’s age and sex. That typically still gives them thousands of toy choices. By answering questions about the desired price range and the type of toys the child likes to play with, shoppers can narrow the selection down to a size they’re comfortable with.

“EToys has a great gift finder that really lets the customer drill down to the right item,” says Lauren Freedman, president of Chicago-based E-Tailing Group Inc. “Even the clearance item section is easy to navigate through.”

But it’s more than just advanced search and navigation features that help shoppers find the right gift. eToys also mails out 3.5 million catalogs so kids can mark what they like. Then the parents can go online later and buy. It also has begun gathering birthdates of all children for whom toys are being purchased. Then, three weeks before the birthday, eToys e-mails parents a reminder to come to its site. It also lets the parents know that it sells birthday party supplies.

To make sure its gifts fit what customers want, eToys tests products for age compatibility rather than just go by what is on the box. “The box might say 3 and up. But what a 3-year-old wants to play with is different from what a 6-year-old would want,” Wagner says. Additionally, eToys pays a lot of attention to the customers’ product ratings and has dropped more than a dozen toys because customers gave them poor ratings, Wagner says. To increase its battery of reviews, eToys sends e-mails to all customers a couple weeks after delivery asking for the buyer’s input into a toy review.
Testing is everything


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