CEO Sharon Price John says Build-A-Bear’s old e-commerce system is a big reason for disappointing online sales in December.
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One area where FansEdge.com stands out is in listening to customers-then acting on their suggestions. When it redesigned its site 18 months ago, it included a link for feedback on the redesign: Tell us what you think. FansEdge has left it there because shoppers continue to tell FansEdge what they think. “We’re constantly trying to improve the site,” says Kevin Bates, president of the retail division of Dreams Inc., owner of FansEdge. “Once a month we do multivariate testing based on comments we get from that link.” The redesign that led to the link includes Java-based fly-out menus that allow shoppers to view all categories without clicking and more detail about shipping policies. FansEdge has been pleased with the results: 2009 is shaping up to be a record year in sales and profits, Bates says.
Apparel retailer Forever21.com knows its market-fashion-forward teens and young adults who would rather see images of products than read about their quality or peruse care instructions. So the retailer places vivid hero shots on each category page and offers several views of products along with zoom. Recognizing that its customers may still be developing their own sense of fashion, it provides guidance with a Shop By Outfit tool. And because many trendy teens want results fast, the tool showcases as many as 30 outfits without requiring a page refresh. Young shoppers also are social, and Forever21.com, has that covered as well, with nearly 450,000 Facebook fans, the ability to create, view and send wish lists, and contests-such as a search for the most stylish plus-sized shopper.
These days there’s more to watch on Fossil.com. Fossil Inc. in September updated its web site with a new look and more advanced features, including customer reviews and ratings, enhanced product zoom, and video. Fossil.com also has been enhanced with product recommendations. In addition to these slick new features, Fossil plans to add a clothes configuration tool next year. Fossil also is adding to its line of apparel online for men and women and expanding deeper into Europe and Asia. Fossil.com currently sells online in the U.S. and 11 other countries, including the United Kingdom and Germany. “Everything we are doing and will continue to do is to stay even truer to our brand,” says Philip Thompson, Fossil’s vice president, marketing and operations, e-commerce.
Everyone likes being part of something exclusive, whether it’s the country club or VIP access to a concert. Gilt Groupe, which sells luxury apparel at steep discounts, is one of a small group of innovative web stores bringing invitation-only to e-commerce. Shoppers can request membership through the site or be invited by other members. Members can access a schedule of upcoming sales. That’s important because sales last 36 hours and are first come, first served. Gilt is a site worthy of the designer duds it sells. It features sophisticated photography, robust product pages and interesting navigation; for instance, shoppers click on large home page images to access a designer’s offerings. Product pages feature photos with mouseover zoom. If an item is sold out, a shopper can add her name to a wait list.
In just two years, Heels.com has carved out a niche for itself online and created an e-commerce experience that rivals-and in some ways surpasses-that of the biggest shoe e-retailers. It features loads of video, two blogs, a sharp design (including mouseover zoom) and exceptional navigation (continually paring down displayed products by such factors as style, attributes, brand and color). And it has presences on every major social network. “Social networking is ingrained in our corporate culture because it is ingrained in the lives of our customers,” says Eric McCoy, founder and CEO. What’s more, Heels.tv showcases videos on a multitude of topics, such as Stiletto Minute and Fan Spotlight. Video differentiates Heels.com from many competitors, McCoy says, and has increased conversion.
For a web site that carries many items with four-digit price tags, luxury leather bag and accessories maker Hermes International offers a site that is whimsical and accessible. Products are integrated with fanciful drawings, such as a heart pendant necklace that makes up half a wing in a butterfly drawing. In addition to typical categories in the top-of-the page navigation, such as women, leather, jewelry and watches, Hermes.com lures shoppers to discover its products with a tab titled “Surprise!” That category offers merchandise that’s constantly changing; on a recent click, scented papers were available for purchase. But the bags are the stars, and a powerful mouseover magnifier on many product pages allows shoppers to see practically every stitch of Hermes’ high-end bags and other products.
Lee Jeans rolled out a redesigned e-commerce site in April, reflecting the brand manufacturer’s new commitment to web sales. “Branding is wonderful, but consumers were looking to buy our brand,” says Liz Cahill, vice president of marketing. The new Lee.com features streamlined navigation, crisp images and a sleek look. The newly retooled web site includes a revamped Fit Finder, which asks consumers how they like their jeans to fit in the waist, thigh and seat, and then suggests a suitable fit. The Fit Finder also lets shoppers save their profile and fitting settings. The new web site includes product reviews, streamlined checkout and improved navigation that lets shoppers narrow down their pants selection by a variety of product attributes, including rise and inseam, color, or price.