Target and Toys R Us posted overall sales declines during the holidays.
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Now, a new item is posted on the site as soon as another deal sells out. “When we went to the Bottomless SaC, our traffic and revenue doubled without any advertising,” Bresee says.
Buoyed by the success of the Bottomless SaC, Backcountry in October introduced a desktop alert system that notifies customers when a new deal has been posted on SteepandCheap.com. “We’ve just had tens of thousands of people downloading that,” Bresee says. “It paid for itself the first day.”
Hook, line and sinker
Sometimes, submerged treasure is right under one’s nose. BassProShops.com already had in place an extensive outdoor living library-content geared toward the outdoors enthusiasts who are its core customers-but not enough customers were finding it. Bass Pro repositioned links to its library on a prominent piece of home page real estate, rotated featured material in that spot, and carved out a corner on product pages to feature relevant new additions to library content.
Since then traffic to the outdoors library has increased and so, correspondingly, have sales. “The people that use the outdoors library visit our site twice as frequently as other customers, and they have a higher lifetime value than others,” says David Seifert, director of operations, direct marketing.
That’s just one part of Bass Pro’s renewed focus this year on community building and putting the customer at the center of its web efforts-even when those site visitors aren’t in shopping mode. And those results are just one illustration of how the larger effort is paying off.
“There seems to have been a reluctance with retailers to really expose customers to that kind of content because there was a fear it would interfere with the shopping process,” says Seifert. “If you’re just an online store, that’s fine for when people want to buy something. But if you want to try and catch someone when they aren’t going to buy something, you have to give them a lot of other reasons to come to the site.”
BassPro also added customer ratings and review this year. A home page link to “top-rated hunting gear” proved to be the most successful online promotion ever run on the site, lifting conversions on featured products by 59% for shoppers who read the reviews vs. those that didn’t.
Lauren Freeman, president of The e-Tailing Group, gives BassProShops.com thumbs up on how the site demonstrates a deep understanding of its core enthusiast audience. “The robustness of their library, their forums-it all speaks to the community aspect,” she says. “Some of the things they are doing that underlie who their audience is are really impressive.”
A strong, muscular site
Bodybuilding.com has a strong customer base in more ways than one. The site has pulled off the content-community-commerce combo that many retailers dream of, and in a mere six years has grown from two guys in a garage to a company with $46 million in annual revenue, 114 employees and a steadily growing need for more warehouse space. And it’s been profitable since Day One, says CEO Ryan DeLuca, a self-described computer geek who started doing Internet marketing right out of high school and loves pumping iron in his spare time-of which he doesn’t have much.
The home page offers visitors a choice of Store (where 5,500 products, mostly nutritional supplements, await) or Supersite (with 18,000 pages of bodybuilding and fitness information plus forums to discuss everything from supplements to teen bodybuilding). At any given moment 2,000 or more users might be in the forums. The content area caters to a variety of users, not just to those who train for competition bodybuilding or power lifting. “Our core customer is the average person at the gym,” DeLuca says. Articles range from advice on fitness regimens and nutrition to customers’ personal makeover stories, complete with before-and-after pictures.
In the store, visitors can shop by brand, product or goal. They can sort the resulting lists by name, price and popularity. For each type of supplement, Bodybuilding.com provides a FAQ and also shows top sellers, least expensive options and “best value per serving.” A Top 50 page, with the site’s most popular products, gives the neophyte a clue where to begin. The Store directs visitors to the Supersite for more information and moral support from fellow fitness buffs.
“They’ve done a great job of integrating commerce and community,” says retail consultant Jim Okamura, senior partner at J.C. Williams Group, Chicago. “I like their very deep FAQ section, which handholds the customer throughout the experience and helps manage expectations. And they cater to many styles of shopping. They’ve really thought through the different types of customers they have, Web-savvy or not.”
Everything but the horse
Founded in 1975 by two former members of the U.S. Equestrian Team, Dover Saddlery has grown from a retail store in Wellesley, Mass., to a worldwide operation with catalogs and an e-commerce site.
But recreating an English tack shop online takes skill. DoverSaddlery.com has more than 27,000 SKUs and more than 20,000 products ranging from hoof picks and brushes to saddles and bridles to boots and breeches. What’s more, Dover stocks equipment for the three major categories of English-style riding: hunter/jumper, dressage and eventing.
“We really pride ourselves on having a product for any rider,” says Jeannine Moore, director of e-commerce.
Dover patterns the web site on its catalog, breaking down products based on the different riding styles, Moore explains. On the home page, visitors can choose to shop by riding style as well as by product category.