November 30, 2007, 12:00 AM

Sporting Goods Sites give customers bragging rights

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Visitors can sort products by brand, price, or top sellers. The home page runs the usual sport-by-sport tabs but also lists various brands at mid-page. The site makes it easy to compare products and offers a buyer`s guide to help shoppers unfamiliar with products.

Customers can use a mini-cart to see all the items they`ve purchased before checking out. They also can post product reviews.

The largest sporting goods store in the country, Dick`s sees its web site as a way to reach consumers who might not have visited an outlet. "We are marketing on a national basis, every day of the year," says Hennion. "The web site is a place where a lot of people can shop, especially if they`re not near a store." Back to Top

It`s all about you could be just another sporting goods web site. But the online retailer of golf equipment and clothes distinguishes itself with the high degree of personalization offered to customers.

During the 2006 holiday season, the retailer increased sales by more than 30% and tripled conversion rates. Eight out of ten of those holiday orders included personalized golf balls or other personalized items.

" offers customers a unique and personalized experience," says Tom Cox, president and CEO of Inc., based in Lafayette, La. "This starts with our web site and marketing efforts and continues through our product lines of imprinted golf balls and embroidered golf apparel." has taken steps to make it easier for shoppers to find personalized products and process orders. Using web analytics from Omniture Inc., it has identified areas where it can simplify the search and navigation for personalization options, which include imprinting golf balls with personal photos or funny messages.

"We have developed an intuitive ordering interface on our web site, combined it with proprietary software that seamlessly links our web site to our production department, allowing us to imprint and embroider one unit at a time, with a one to two day turnaround," Cox says. "This creates a superior customer experience that translates into long-term customer loyalty."

The retailer earlier this year also rebuilt the site on Microsoft`s .Net 2.0 platform, resulting in a site that can handle far more traffic. And, because more data can now be cached, the site can more quickly display product details and other information without sending all data requests to a back-end database.

In addition, redesigned its category presentations to make it easier to search by size and color. Also helping to drive sales is Google Checkout, which it offers as an option along with its own checkout page and PayPal`s payment service.

"They do a great job for their target market," says Kim Painley, president of Kinetic Marketing Consultants. "They prominently show all the big brands, it`s very promotional, which is appropriate for them." Back to Top

Solid as a rock
Moosejaw Mountaineering`s most noticeable quality is a certain goofiness that appeals to its core customer base of college students and young adults, with such "Moosejaw Madness" features as the "Daily Remark" and the quasi advice column "Dating Girl." But behind the giggles is an e-commerce site as solid as the rocks in Joshua Tree National Park, where Moosejaw shot its most recent product photos. Founders Robert and Jeffrey Wolfe manned the cameras and Moosejaw staff provided the models.

"In addition to a massive selection, the site features photos of people using the gear, testimonials from satisfied customers, a liberal return policy, free shipping on orders over $29, live help, a monthly contest, plenty of sale merchandise and a sense of humor," says George Whalin, president and CEO of Retail Management Consultants.

Based in Madison Heights, Mich., Moosejaw recently completed a site overhaul that added an Ajax-based product quick-view feature (to save users from toggling between product pages and search results), a drop-down cart, and the ability to view and sort search results by customer rating. On the product side, the site has added surfing and snowboarding equipment.

Like its target audience, Moosejaw has embraced text messaging. "We see lots of our customers texting people who are standing right next to them," Robert Wolfe says. Moosejaw offers to text its customers tracking information for their orders. Wolfe estimates one in five sign up.

On the back end, Moosejaw has used Retail Backbone to overhaul the way it programs promotions on the site and in shopping engines so its marketing department can handle things without bothering programming staff. The company recently offered free two-day air shipping on all North Face products. The promotion came up with every search that included North Face items, and was included in all affiliate marketing.

It`s not always about efficiency, though. Each customer who posts a product review gets a personal note. "That`s one thing we don`t automate," Wolfe says. Back to Top

A new foundation
Visitors to over the past year have seen several new features. The sporting goods site swapped a proprietary search engine for one from Mercado Software Inc., giving shoppers a wider variety of search options. It also introduced customer reviews and revised product pages to give shoppers more information on products.

But those changes are only laying the foundation for what Brad Brown, vice president of e-commerce and web strategy, says will be the first significant redesign of the site since 2003, beginning next spring.

The new site search capabilities from Mercado give shoppers the option of searching for products based on categories such as vendor, best selling and price. "We`re still experimenting with what makes sense for our shoppers," Brown says. "We`ll do more with the Mercado tool as time progresses," including upgrading the site`s navigation and merchandising capabilities.

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