Alibaba’s Tmall Global now features goods from 14,500 overseas brands, 80% of them selling in China for the first time.
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By early next year, customers will be able to take that a step farther by describing their ideal scent. They will be able to specify if they want a light, medium or heavy scent and whether they like flowery, fruity or spicy fragrances. They’ll even be able to specify how long they want the scent to last. Then, they get suggestions that fit the bill, explains Jason Apfel, president.
“In our category, selection is key,” he says. “We need to help customers quickly and easily find the fragrances that fit their desires.”
These new features are taking this web site to a new level. Its strength in the past has been its selection and prices-selling popular fragrances up to 70% below department store prices. But customers generally had to know in advance the name of the fragrance they wanted.
Features that help customers sort product and quickly find what they like is a welcome addition, says Lee Diercks, managing director of consulting firm Clear Thinking Group LLC. Fragrancenet.com offers 11,000 products in its fragrance, cosmetics, candles and aromatherapy lines.
Diercks notes the site previously needed “a lot of verbiage” to describe so many products, and it wasn’t easy for customers to sort through all the options. “You pretty much had to know what brand of fragrance you wanted; it was not very shopper-friendly,” Diercks says.
Letting customers describe what they want and get appropriate suggestions addresses those concerns. Back to top
I want candy
A man is out to lunch when it suddenly dawns on him that it’s his honey’s birthday tomorrow. Fortunately he remembers his significant other’s most significant candy is White Chocolate Raspberry Stars from Godiva. So he whips out his smartphone, goes into his Godiva application, searches “raspberry stars,” selects a gift box, enters shipping and billing information automatically through the smartphone’s address book, selects overnight shipping, clicks Buy (payment information is stored and encrypted in the application), and returns to his sandwich.
Leaders in mobile commerce know it’s as simple as that-or rather, that it needs to be as simple as that. Godiva dove into m-commerce when the chocolatier launched a shop on mobile mall Digby in 2007. This year, it continued to pioneer m-commerce by launching a downloadable mobile application available for BlackBerrys, iPhones and smartphones with Windows Mobile.
An m-commerce site is essentially a small version of an e-commerce site. A mobile application is small software that users download onto their smartphones and run like any other program. Because mobile applications use the resident computing power and functionality of the smartphone instead of a distant web server, and communicate with web servers much less frequently, they provide a faster, richer experience. And they reside on a user’s mobile desktop, which the cell phone owner sees several times a day.
Godiva knew this, and is among the first retailers to launch a downloadable mobile application-and one for so many different smartphones, no less.
“The mobile application is about driving transactions, of course, but it’s also about branding and getting your name out there in the mobile realm and, most especially, having the opportunity to stay very, very close to your best customers,” says Dave Sikora, CEO of Digby, which helped Godiva build the application.
In 2009, Godiva will launch an m-commerce site, accessible via any mobile phone with Internet access. And it will introduce a version of its mobile application for the newly minted Android mobile operating system from Google, a move that shows Godiva will continue to push the m-commerce envelope. Back to top
iGourmet is for two kinds of people: gourmets and the people who love them, or at least like them enough to want to send a really nice gift.
And its navigation bar is color-coded accordingly: sepia for the gourmet, with tabs leading directly to cheese, coffee, chocolate and desserts, oils and vinegars (hungry yet?) and other specialty categories, and mustard-yellow for the gift-giver, with tabs for gift baskets, of-the-month clubs, and create-your-own-basket.
A long list of Hot Topics down the left side (Anchovies! Sopressata! Butter!) further abets the epicure’s search. Some of the most mouthwatering food photography on the web makes those gourmet dishes really pop off the screen (ostrich tenderloin, anyone?).
iGourmet’s founder, Spencer Chesman, is from a family that’s been in food importing for three generations and has strong, sometimes exclusive, relationships with small European suppliers. What iGourmet lacks in delicious aromas, it makes up for in selection, like 800 cheeses from 36 countries, all cut fresh for each order. A tab for “regional cuisines” leads customers to the usual French and Italian, plus such exotic culinary destinations as Africa, Israel and Australia.
A redesign earlier this year paid big dividends by simplifying the categories and putting product pages only one or two clicks from the home page, says director of marketing Stephan Bernstein. “We made changes in our hierarchy based on user feedback about being able to find things, and then we matched our paid search terms to the new categories,” he says. “Now we can really see which terms are performing. We can see when we’re getting a lot of traffic on a term, and maybe we should expand that product line.”
The site also sharpened its ask-the-expert capabilities with live chat; questions on given products are routed automatically to the person who knows the product line best.
“The navigation looks a little busy to me, but otherwise I think they’ve done a really good job with the design,” says e-commerce consultant Erin Cisney of Ciztek Consulting, Denver. “The product pages are clear and get a lot of information across.” Back to top
First bake, then blog
Take a big assortment of bake ware and ingredients, add a large quantity of how-to content, bind it together with an online community 100,000 members strong, and you have KingArthurFlour.com’s recipe for success. Though the 200-year-old brand launched a catalog in 1990, it is its web site that’s brought it into the 21st century. It’s harnessed the social networking power of the Internet to tap into the popular online activity of recipe sharing and built one of the largest enthusiast communities online.