Target and Toys R Us posted overall sales declines during the holidays.
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Moosejaw.com goes out of its way-way out of its way-to be fun, silly and even stupid to entertain customers, who primarily fall into the phat demographic of teens and twenty-somethings. The object is to build a community of like-minded shoppers looking to talk about hiking, snowboarding and other sporting pastimes while ensuring the Moosejaw brand is top of mind.
“Our goal is simple: to carry the best products and have as much fun in the process,” says Robert Wolfe, founder of Moosejaw Mountaineering. “Our success with fun is reflected in the Moosejaw Madness section of the e-commerce site-it regularly comes in second in total clicks, and we don’t even sell any products there. This is all about community.”
And the community has been responding, as measured by increased traffic and sales. So Moosejaw has been adding more functionality to its site, including alternative product views and consumer product reviews, to keep feeding shoppers more information, and more to discuss. Further, it has leapt into mobile commerce headfirst based on the habits of its young shoppers. The company offers text messaging for Moosejaw Madness nonsense as well as for keeping track of purchases and more. And it is preparing to launch a full-blown m-commerce site.
“Even if m-commerce does not help us in the short term, we want to be known as a company that does what our customers like,” Wolfe says, “which helps ensure they keep coming back.”
Moosejaw.com does an exceptional job of communicating tone and brand; few retailers can so successfully combine online commerce and the spirit of their company, says Sucharita Mulpuru, senior retail analyst at Forrester Research Inc. “They are a great example of how a retailer can differentiate themselves online,” she says.
Official seller piles it on
When an e-commerce site is the official retail site for a nation of rabid football fans, it had better get things right. That’s why the National Football League’s web store-NFLShop.com-unveiled in April a top-to-bottom redesign. The plan: to create a dynamic, interactive, multi-channel experience for NFL fans, says Brian Fitzgerald, manager of NFL Direct.
“We’re really trying to make the user experience something that is new, unique and different every time,” he says.
With 50-plus major brands and 20,000 SKUs, setting up a web site to display the breadth of the products available called for a best-of-breed approach to merchandising and marketing, Fitzgerald says. The redesigned site, launched in July, features 7 different home page designs that coincide with new promotions launched every few weeks. “The site dynamically changes the entire home page look and feel on a weekly basis,” he says.
The redesigned site also features: a page with Flash player technology on which shoppers can view clips of DVDs; zoom and 360-degree rotation on 500 jerseys; and new product pages that feature customer testimonials and content from suppliers; and mini-cart technology that enables customers to continue shopping without leaving a product page.
“Our goal is to have the largest selection of NFL-licensed products on the web,” Fitzgerald says. “To have it is one thing. But you need a technology platform that, from a usability standpoint, consumers can shop and find their product very quickly and just have a fun overall online experience.”
NFLShop.com also is keeping better track of how different merchandising and marketing strategies are working. “We view what people are clicking on, we see best-selling stuff,” Fitzgerald says. “We have tags on every banner on the web, tags on affiliate programs, and we have a clear, detailed understanding of what’s going on with our search program.
“We’re really just trying to aggressively do all the best practices that should be done in this space with online marketing, best-of-breed technology, rich media and multi-channel integration.”
The five-star chew toy
Pet owners love to talk about their furry and feathered friends and Petco.com knows that fact well. “For our target customer, this is their child,” says vice president of e-commerce John Lazarchic. That made the site a natural fit for customer ratings and reviews that, within the context of providing product feedback, give its core audience one more reason to chat about their critters.
Petco.com added that feature this year, rejecting concerns expressed by some marketers about the potential risk in letting consumers express opinions-including negative ones-in a public forum on the site. But Petco.com understands that showing both sides is part of the deal. “We knew that for the program to have any validity, we’d have to be willing to put up negative reviews,” says Lazarchic.
In fact, customer ratings and reviews are starting to pay off for more than a few online retailers this year, partly in terms of brand differentiation and customer relationship building. Petco.com wins not only by leveraging the feature for all of that, but also by integrating it with other applications that are producing hard metrics. Including posted customer reviews in an e-mail campaign this year, for example, produced a 200% higher click-through rate on those e-mails. And incorporating reviews of products into sort-and-search functionality also is moving the needle on sales.
“Being able to sort by ratings is something I haven’t seen a lot of sites do. It’s been really effective for Petco,” says Lauren Freedman, president of The e-Tailing Group. Freedman also notes the range of search results sorting options on the site-by sale, popularity, rating-“gives the customer a chance to be the editor, and that’s important. Customers are into using tools that let them find what they want, the way they want to.”