November 21, 2008, 12:00 AM


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Garmin is a pioneer in blogger outreach, identifying influential bloggers and establishing relationships with them in order to further brand awareness and ultimately increase sales.

Garmin also has its own blog, offering its satellite junkies GPS tips and stories while encouraging discussion and feedback. Garmin promotes the blog with a link on the home page, blog content integrated into its market pages, and e-mail marketing. The blog registered more than 120,000 unique monthly visitors this year.

“What you get with a blog is more engaged and higher value customers who are likely to click on store links in blog posts,” Johnston says. “If I’m buying a digital camera or GPS device, I’m going to do a lot of research and learn what other people are saying. And if I can see through a blog a lot of positive customer feedback and a company backing up a product with all this additional content, then I’ll be more likely to buy.”

The blog also helps with natural search results, Johnston adds, because of the constantly updated content that attracts search engine spiders, which always are looking for fresh material.

Overall, is packed with informational content that helps shoppers understand and enjoy GPS technology, says Craig Smith, founder and managing director of consulting firm Trinity Insight LLC. And there is a seamless transition, he adds, between researching and buying. Back to top

All about options
Ritz Interactive Inc., which operates flagship site and 16 other e-commerce sites, including, has a straightforward philosophy: present the customer options. This stretches from payment options-from credit card and Google Checkout to PayPal and Bill Me Later-to choices in navigation methods and customer service.

The company pays a lot of attentions to providing reviews. “The reviews are excellent,” says Mark Lee, principal at consulting firm The Mark Lee Group. “First, there’s the company’s thorough review. Next, a summary chart of the objective ratings by all customers.” He also likes that the site displays the percentage of reviewers in various categories, such as “Getting Started,” “Casual Photographer,” and “Professional.”

The reviews and ratings are so helpful that Ritz has begun promoting a product’s rating before the visitor even gets to a product page. For example, when a popular item is featured on the RitzCamera home page, a high rating is listed directly below the image. “It’s one of the most desirable features on the site,” president and CEO Fred Lerner. “People like to buy what other people like.”

The site provides several other ways visitors can obtain information about a product, including a live chat feature that RitzCamera calls Live Help. This allows customers to communicate with a representative familiar with the type of product the consumer is interested in, such as electronics or outdoors items, in a format similar to instant messaging. Lerner says up to 25% of customer service inquiries are made through the Live Help option.

RitzInteractive now also offers product alerts to keep regular visitors, including professional photographers and hobbyists, informed of the latest sale items and pre-orders. Visitors give their e-mail addresses and specify which products they want to be informed about.

Ritz is also working on incorporating video. “We estimate that about 75% of the products we sell should have video and we’re dedicated to having videos for all products that deserve it,” says Lerner. “We live in a generation where sight and sound reinforce buying decisions, and video accomplishes that.” Back to top

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