May 29, 2009, 12:00 AM

Retailers using widgets should make them a contained, personal experience

A new report says retail widgets—small, focused applications that work on computer desktops, smartphones and social networks—should keep shoppers in the widget, not direct them to a web site, to make a purchase. And, they should be customized.

Widgets offer consumers the ability to access focused or personalized information from a web site without having to access the site. A widget, for example, can reside on a computer or iPhone desktop or be part of a social network or blog page.

Merchants pioneering the use of widgets in Internet retailing are focusing on desktop widgets; mobile widgets, almost always referred to as apps in the mobile world; and social network widgets, more often than not called applications in the social network realm. These merchants are giving consumers the information they want in the setting they desire, sans e-commerce site. Few, however, are yet transactional.

“Today, online retailers are looking for ways to extend their reach to social networks, desktop and web widgets, blogs, and mobile applications to connect with customers,” says David Lavenda, vice president of marketing and product strategy at WorkLight, a vendor that helps retailers and other companies syndicate content throughout such venues. “But the real question is not how to capture customers’ attention, but rather how companies can generate sales and enhance customer loyalty via such popular tools as Facebook, the iPhone, iGoogle and others. Secure retail widgets represent a new and exceptional channel for convenient shopping and always-on customer service, one that generates sales for retailers and saves customers time and money.”

In its report titled “Secure Widgets for Business-Spotlight on Online Retail,” WorkLight provides a series of recommendations for online retailers looking to extend marketing and sales efforts via secure transactional widgets. WorkLight says retailers creating widgets should:

  • Allow customers to search and shop directly via the widget, without being redirected to the retail web site.
  • Engage customers by providing personalized widgets with highly granular, individualized offers to improve conversion rates, lower marketing costs and increase sales. Enable customers to respond to offers within the widget, without being redirected.
  • Provide social networking tools to let customers share experiences regarding services and products with their friends. Then let friends order products directly from the social networking sites.
  • Experiment with marketing messages to quickly and cost-effectively select the most appropriate messages for consumer segments.
  • Monitor response and conversion rates to gauge the success of widget campaigns and improve performance.
  • Compare the costs and returns of secure widget-based offers versus traditional marketing channels.
“Online sales are becoming an increasingly critical element of multichannel retail sales, especially as people become highly selective in where and how they shop,” Lavenda says. “Retailers that are able to monetize this migration to the online channel with successful widget marketing and sales efforts will quickly stand apart from the rest.”

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