November 21, 2008, 12:00 AM

Sporting Goods

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“It’s a way to push information out from our site to the social networking sites, rather than down from social networking sites,” says Tighe.

Journey’s zoom feature plays well with shoppers by enabling them to click to zoom in on a product. They can also use a slider to magnify or reduce an image.

“Shoppers want advanced zoom features because they replicate inspecting an item up close in the store right down to the shoe pattern,” says Chris Vicente, senior manager, Products Consumer Markets Group for BearingPoint. “The site says to its audience ‘we know how you want to shop.’” Back to top

On-track performance
When NASCAR fans head to the track on race day, they often wear the number and colors of their favorite driver on a customized jacket or baseball cap. And as they cheer from the stands as cars fight for position amid the roar of horsepower, they often glance at the electronic tower of lighted numbers that show the race position of each driver.

At, a familiar tower of lighted drivers’ numbers greets fans on the home page. Ranked by level of merchandise sales, which often coincides with drivers’ records in winning races, each number lets visitors click to a merchandise page related to Dale Earnhardt Jr., Jeff Gordon or any of dozens of other drivers currently competing in the races of the National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing.

“We’re the official online store of NASCAR, so we want to make sure it looks authentic, and make it as familiar to customers as possible,” says Mike Denton, director of e-commerce.

The site is as efficient as a pit stop at a NASCAR track, says David Schofman, an e-commerce consultant and former head of online retailer Callaway Golf Interactive. “It is clean, easy to navigate and fast,” he says. “The shop-by-driver concept is a type of selling that makes perfect sense for this target consumer, which is most often driver focused.”

The NASCAR online shop, designed and hosted by GSI Commerce Inc., is continuing to rev up its performance, Denton says. In July it launched a custom configurator that lets shoppers design their own products with racetrack logos-for example, a sweatshirt with their choice of several NASCAR-related emblems on the front, back and sides. Shoppers also can insert a professional driver’s signature and add their own name in block letters across the top of the back.

And NASCAR is not planning on slowing down. The site, which also sells items ranging from wristwatches to barbecue grill covers adorned with drivers’ numbers, plans to launch a redesign in 2009 that will allow for even more customization, Denton says. Back to top

Perpetual change
The Orvis Co. Inc. has been selling sporting goods and clothing for the outdoors-minded for 12 years. Such longevity suggests an ability to change with the times and an understanding of what shoppers want. Since 1997, has extended those traits to its e-commerce site.’s rule of thumb has been incremental change, rather than wholesale site tear-down and rebuild, says Brad Wolansky, vice president of global e-commerce. “We have built a platform that we know works and that our customers are familiar and comfortable with,” he says. “And new customers find it very easy to use. We are very conscious of staying up-to-date and competitive with features and functionality and introducing things into the site that will cause people to come back.”

Since January, has upgraded or added a range of features and functions including site search, save for later, gift registry/wish list, product Q&A;, basket preview and integrated Flash video. The Flash video feature, developed in-house, was designed to keep shoppers engaged for a few seconds while a home page product video loads. The presentation takes the place of the “please wait” message that many sites display during the few seconds a site takes to load Flash media.

“The static presentation has made the user experience better, and that makes marketing better,” Wolansky says. exudes warmth and trust, says Georgianne Brown, managing partner at Big Couch Media Group and president and CEO of, a web broadcast and social network for pet lovers. Product selection is tightly focused on an outdoor lifestyle, she notes, while product range is extensive. “Once inside the main categories, the second-level sub-categories go very deep.”

Adherence to its theme carries through to ancillary products and services, including travel and home resources, Brown notes.

The site’s overall feel is advanced by its merchandising, which is seasonally focused, she says. “That’s always important for a lifestyle site.” Brown also praises for positioning its e-mail newsletter sign-up on every page, and for following up with a “thank you” message after registration. Back to top

Making great strides
Many bricks-and-mortar running stores allow shoppers to try on shoes, take a stroll around the shop and even go for a jog while an associate analyzes their gait takes that same level of customer service and product assessment to the web. The e-retailer knows that, when it comes to running shoes, fit makes all the difference, and so it offers several ways to help runners ensure they are getting it right-even if they can’t physically test the shoes out.

For example, shoes on the site are classified not only by brand, but by attributes such as supportive or wide. Those new to running who aren’t sure what type shoe they need can submit a video of themselves jogging, which Running Warehouse employees analyze and use to recommend an appropriate shoe.

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