March 1, 2010, 12:00 AM

Standout designs

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Kobo has zeroed in on features that most appeal to its customers, such as the ability to read full sample chapters of digital books, she said.

Engaging community

Nutritional products retailer GNC has found an effective way to engage customers through an online community where customers can share their experiences with supplements and diets. “The community is a way to allow consumers to talk to each other about their regimens, successes and failures, which is very valuable,” said Christy Clark, senior vice president of e-commerce.

Even small changes in web design can make a big difference, several speakers pointed out. Kevin Richards, president of Ventura Web Design, said that simply color-coordinating Add to Cart and View Cart icons on one retailer’s site led to a 7% increase in sales.

For retailers on a tight budget there are plenty of low-cost or free tools for improving web site design, said Halley Silver, director of e-commerce at baking products retailer King Arthur Flour. To help build web traffic from mobile devices, for example, she noted that offers a web-based, open-source development tool for building mobile apps.

Lauren Freedman, president of research and consulting firm The E-tailing Group Inc., said that more retailers are indeed upgrading their web designs to better engage customers. In her firm’s annual survey of 100 e-retailers conducted late last year, she noted that, for example, 37% offered shoppers personalized content, up from 24% a year earlier.

Freedman presented a long list of other site features that are becoming increasingly common on e-commerce sites. As IRWD 2010 made clear, successful e-commerce sites must constantly evolve with the changing demands of online shoppers.

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