Target and Toys R Us posted overall sales declines during the holidays.
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When the ticket is $7,000 and the product weighs a ton, shoppers want to see the merchandise before ordering a gazebo kit online. To make the selection easier, CedarStore.com, a web retailer of cedar and related wood products, created GazeboCreations.com. On the site, CedarStore.com also built a “Gazebo Wizard” that streamlines the complicated job of shopping for a gazebo into a three-step process. With the wizard tool, shoppers first pick a style, select the desired type of roof and building materials, and then size a gazebo. The internally designed wizard from CedarStore.com also lets shoppers add, remove or upgrade various options and images as they customize their selection. “We’ve tried to take a very complex buying process and make it simple,” says CedarStore.com president Tim McTighe.
“Purchasing window treatments can be scary for people,” says Eric Long, senior manager, e-business, at Levolor.com. So Levolor makes it easy for online shoppers to pick out and buy the blinds, drapes or other treatments that best fit their windows-and the rooms those windows are in. On Levolor.com’s home page, visitors can click fast-loading images to browse for decorating ideas, enter sections that offer detailed measurement instructions, and click to a product configurator to customize treatments by type, style, color and operating features. Shoppers can quickly change colors on sample walls and window frames as well as selected window treatments to see how products will appear in a variety of decorating arrangements. In all, Levolor.com makes buying window treatments not so scary.
Lovesac Alternative Furniture Co. is selling something new-and uses its web site, Lovesac.com, to introduce its product, the lovesac. It’s a kind of bean-bag chair that’s filled with a material called DuraFoam that the store and web retailer guarantees will never go flat or rupture. Lovesac.com provides a wealth of photographs of the company’s products in home settings, as well as videos. The site provides detailed information about its products, and offers a wish list, gift registry and customer reviews. There’s also a room planner that lets visitors select the color they want, then move products onto a grid to see how Lovesac chairs, sectionals, pillows and ottomans will fit into their homes. That feature will be more customizable on a new e-commerce platform coming next year.
OneKings Lane.com is among the growing list of e-commerce sites that allow registered shoppers to buy excess high-end merchandise, in this case housewares and home furnishings. Membership is free. Such private sales protect the images of top-of-the-line brands that don’t like to publicize discounts, while limiting objections from stores that sell those brands. Each week the site launches two or three sales events and each is live for three days. Successful sales often are repeated within a few months. Members can view a calendar of upcoming sales events by date and brand. Co-founder Alison Pincus explains that “photos are very much a focal point of product pages and our home page.” And the e-retailer recently launched a gift card program aimed at those shopping for holiday or wedding gifts.
For the owner of a 1912 Craftsman bungalow, few things motivate home improvements like seeing how another owner solved the same design problem he has. Expand the concept to other home styles, put it online and you have the Projects Blog at the web site of Rejuvenation Hardware. Viewing posted photos, visitors follow the progress of actual home restorations that feature Rejuvenation’s period-style light fixtures, offer advice or find ideas. The site also features a customization tool that lets shoppers select fixture options. As options are selected, a dynamic rendering shows customers what they’re ordering. Tying images of customer’s selections to the shopping cart has reduced abandonment. Together, the blog and customization tool help customers connect with the right product and with each other.
Restoring old homes and furniture can require a lot of motivation, painstaking attention to detail, and patience and luck in finding the right materials. VanDykes.com, the e-commerce site of Van Dyke’s Restorers, a unit of Cabela’s Inc., provides a place that supports all three of these requirements. For motivation, even etched doorknobs are embellished in intricate high-resolution images. For details, Van Dyke’s makes it easy to search for architectural styles such as the several colors and metal varieties of antique tin ceilings. And for hard-to-find products, it offers useful features like its Boring Search tool for finding replacement cabinet handles based on the distance between the screw holes bored in cabinetry. VanDykes.com, it’s fair to say, restores the spirit of the restorer.
The Heavenly Bed that the Westin hotel chain introduced in 1999 was custom designed to impart a sense of luxury, with layer upon layer of sheets, blankets and duvet covers, and piles of pillows. Westin, part of Starwood Hotels and Resorts Inc., began selling it online, and this spring, for the bed’s 10th anniversary, redesigned its site to merchandise the bed in a more compelling way. Mousing over each element of the bed fills it with color and highlights nearby text that links to more information about the item. It’s also now easier to buy it all, and live chat provides fast answers to customer questions. Conversion rate is up, and time on site is down, a sign customers are finding it easier to bring the Heavenly Bed home, says Alyssa Waxenberg, senior director at Westin Interactive Marketing.