November 21, 2008, 12:00 AM


(Page 7 of 9)

After completing free registration and creating a profile, members can chat in forums, upload images of their pooches (and kitties), share videos of their pets in action and meet other pet parents. And any visitor, whether registered with the Online Pet Park or not, can view photos and videos and read the Muttropolis blog.

“Community is important because pet parents have a sense of immediate belonging. It doesn’t matter what your socioeconomic background is-if you have a pet, you feel a connection to fellow pet parents,” says Janet McCulley, co-founder and chief barketing officer. “In our stores that community exists as soon as you walk in the door, so it was a natural transition to get that online and connect our Muttropolis loyalists from all over the nation.”

Muttropolis extends its razor-sharp knowledge of its customers throughout its online operation, creating a shopping experience that matches the enthusiasm of dog and cat owners, says Maris Daugherty, a senior consultant at retail consulting firm J.C. Williams Group Ltd.

“If I were a dog or cat, this would be my home page. This site has personality and a social conscience, and uses knowledge of trends to help pet lovers feel good about buying products,” Daugherty says. “Muttropolis does an exceptional job of enticing shoppers of paw products by using photos that show scale while tugging at your heartstrings. And the Online Pet Park and blog help make you feel part of a worldwide community.” Back to top

A personal connection
As youngsters Charles Hachtmann and his friends, Roberto and Andy Milk, traveled together and marveled at artwork and crafts produced by artisans in remote corners of the world. As adults, they wanted to start a business that would help these artisans reach a wider market.

The Internet made that possible.

Almost a decade ago they founded Novica United Inc., a retail site that links far-off artisans with lovers of art and crafts in developed nations.

To make the connection come to life, the site introduces the artisans through photographs, videos, biographies and the artisans’ own words. Customers can offer reviews and send messages to the craftspeople.

“We’ve built an infrastructure that enables artisans in developing countries to display their works online,” says Hachtmann, Novica’s chief technology officer. “We’re reaching out to areas that didn’t have access, and we’ve created a platform for them.”

The site offers product information not often found in crafts stores or art galleries. Visitors can view images of artisans in their workshops and learn about their goals, philosophies and lifestyles.

“Showing the history of a product is fantastic,” says analyst Scott Kincaid, vice president of usability practice for Usability Sciences Inc., which advises web site operators on customer experience. “It’s a very good way of standing out from the crowd and making people aware of not just the product, but the story behind it.” features a map highlighting the regions where items are produced, and site visitors can search by region or craft category. Products include jewelry, home décor items, paintings, musical instruments, furniture, sculpture, tapestry and wall hangings.

The company has offices in seven countries. In many cases the artisans do not have access to the Internet where they live and come into the local offices to see how their products look online and to learn more about what consumers want. Each item is shipped from its country of origin, eliminating warehousing costs.

Rotating images of artisans top the home page. “We want to provide people with a feel of travel and connectivity with artisans,” says Hachtmann. Back to top

Setting its sights
Oakley Inc.’s vision for its web site has evolved from a focus on strictly selling products to making a key piece of promoting the brand.

“It absolutely is the epicenter of the Oakley brand. Everything you could possibly know about Oakley or want to know is on the web site,” says Ken Loh, web director of Oakley Inc. “Previously it was purely e-commerce, but we didn’t have anything about the athletes who represent us or stories that are important to the brand.”

Redesigned in 2007, now boasts a deep web site that features bold images and updates about the competitive athletes, including swimmers, skiers, surfers and cyclists, who use Oakley sunglasses, goggles or other equipment. “The site uses high-quality video and graphics that create a slick and sleek style that’s in keeping with their brand experience,” says Manivone Phommahaxay, senior experience design consultant at Internet marketing firm Molecular Inc.

The site is also loaded with product information. “We think that it’s important,” Loh says. “We hope a casual browser would say these guys are pretty serious about the technology.”

So serious is the company about how customers will see things that Oakley uses a lens widget on product pages to put shoppers behind the lens. Shoppers can change tints on various models of glasses, see what the world looks like through each lens, and how that compares to the view of the naked eye. Customers can choose among various settings, such as a golf course, football field, forest or desert trail, or a snowy half pipe. 3-D spins let customers see eyewear from all sides.

The web site also allows shoppers to build custom eyewear. They can choose model, frame color, lens color and personalized text for etching on the glass lens. They then can preview how the eyewear will look and see it from several angles.

Customers can post their own experiences with Oakley products in the community section of the site. To further its sporting image, Oakley recently announced a partnership with surfing site to deliver surf condition reports to Apple iPhones. Back to top

Lives up to its name
If your name is, your own web site had better be well organized.

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