November 21, 2008, 12:00 AM


What makes the e-commerce sites in the Food and Drug category noteworthy is how they deliver information, and, where appropriate, spark a desire to consume


Everyone cares deeply about the food they eat, the cosmetics they use or the drugs they take. What makes the e-commerce sites in the Food and Drug category noteworthy is how they deliver information, and, where appropriate, spark a desire to consume.

The featured cosmetics sites all have found ways to make consumers feel comfortable buying products without smelling or feeling them in person. includes comments from customer reviews in search results, and highlights consumer reviewers deemed particularly reliable, to help consumers quickly find quality products. At a visitor can list a fragrance she likes to see a list of similar products. features videos illustrating makeup application techniques, and lets shoppers e-mail makeup artists for advice. Each week a Stila Girl blogs about the Stila products she likes, and shows photos of the results. “We want to make our brand more accessible to women by creating features that speak directly to them about our products,” says Ken Kilar, chief information officer.

For national drugstore chains like Walgreens and CVS, the role of the web site is to offer both convenience and information. Both allow consumers to fill or refill prescriptions online, for home delivery or store pickup. CVS not only has a store locator, but a web site feature that shows the nearest CVS pharmacy along a route the consumer plans to travel.

As for inspiration, check out the mouth-watering imagery at Godiva Chocolatier or gift basket retailer iGourmet. But both offer more than just tempting photos.

Godiva has made it remarkably easy for consumers to buy sinful treats through mobile phones. The family behind iGourmet has been importing food for three generations and offers a selection-800 cheeses from 36 countries, all freshly cut for each order-only available in the largest U.S. cities., which sells bakeware and baking ingredients, is the place to go to exchange baking recipes, and to ask questions of the company’s baking experts. Detailed photos show how a recipe should look at each stage in preparation.

“It creates such a good experience for the customer,” says e-commerce consultant Lauren Freedman of The E-tailing Group, “like warm cookies coming out of the oven.”Back to top

The search for beauty
With web sales growing steadily over the last three years, Avon Products Inc. has taken steps to improve the quality of its e-commerce site,

Among the enhancements is a site search engine that incorporates comments from customer reviews in the search results. That helps visitors learn from other consumers, and find products with the attributes they are seeking. A consumer who provides many reviews that Avon deems helpful is labeled a “Top 500 Contributor” and her reviews carry that designation, helping other viewers to assess which reviews to trust the most. Customer reviews are plentiful and detailed for most products and include a 5-star rating scale.

Avon has added other customer-friendly features to its site, as well. “ has most of the basics of a modern web site: customer reviews, multiple and/or larger views and ‘customers who bought this product also bought,’” says Mark Lee of consulting firm The Mark Lee Group LLC.

On product pages, visitors can quickly see available products that complement the items they are viewing. “‘This will go great with’ is an excellent way to phrase companion cross-sells,” Lee says.

Liberally scattered beauty tips and suggestions help make the site a useful destination for beauty-conscious consumers. recently featured a quiz that lets women choose the appropriate skin care products for their skin type. Product pages also list ingredients, an important feature for many careful shoppers.

Avon also uses its site to help the company establish one-to-one relationships with consumers. The site’s home page touts the eRepresentative option as “the most convenient way” of shopping with Avon. Site visitors can use this feature to locate and speak directly to a representative who lives nearby. Not only does this feature offer the consumer a personal link to an Avon representative, it also offers special perks like “free personal delivery” and personalized e-mail alerts of new products or special offers.

With this year’s addition of a Spanish version of, the company hopes to attract more Spanish-speaking consumers, many of whom are more comfortable shopping in Spanish, even if they speak some English, surveys show.Back to top

Internet meets pharmacy
When reconfigured its web site in July, it had clear goals in mind. The company aimed to enhance its services in ways that would help customers better manage their health care, and to reinforce the relationship between and the pharmacy chain’s 6,800 stores.

“The vision for the new is to be an extension of our stores by providing market-leading tools and services 24 hours a day, seven days a week,” explains Dustin Humphreys, director of ebusiness and technology and general manager of “This aligns with our enterprise effort to provide the best possible multi-channel pharmacy and shopping experience for our customers.”

The primary thrust of that effort was to make it easier for customers to fill prescriptions.

New features of the site allow customers to view their prescriptions online and those of dependents. They also can transfer prescriptions to CVS via the web site, and order prescription refills online and pick up their medications at a CVS store.

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