Even with growing US economic uncertainty, online retail continues to gain popularity. With more online customers, more multichannel and e-commerce retailers have entered the space, leading to increased competition and more pressure on marketers to increase visibility of their brands on the Web.
“[Retailers must] sit down and talk to their users about what their mindset is when shopping for an item and what information is most relevant in the moment that they're buying.” says Gene Lewis, partner and director of Web development at interactive agency Digital Pulp, which worked to optimize cosmetic manufacturer Lancome's e-commerce Web site.
Digital Pulp found that chief among consumer concerns is minimizing the amount of clicks required to complete a purchase. “Suggesting related items is a powerful concept, and also, fewer clicks are better,” Lewis says. “These days this means leveraging technologies that reduce the number of pop-ups and pages.”
Lewis says that retailers with Web sites can't help but continue to optimize and enhance their sites' features, because e-commerce winners will be those retailers that have continued to mature with the times.
“The Web forces people who are typically thinking a certain way to think, ‘whoa, technology can really do more than the paradigm of retail that we've been used to for 100 years,'” he continues.
1-800-Flowers.com also recently sought to streamline the customer experience in response to customer concerns — in its case, the Web-based florist decided to expand into mobile commerce.
“An integrated [Web and mobile] marketing campaign would drive traffic to the site, streamline the buying experience and capitalize on what mobile's all about — convenience,” says Vibhav Prasad, senior director of Web marketing at 1-800-Flowers.com. He adds that as both the mobile Web and mobile browsing devices become more popular and the browsing experience improves, that channel will become more intertwined with the Web experience. If it's optimized correctly, “the mobile channel really complements the online channel” Prasad says.
The difference between a mobile commerce site and a traditional e-commerce site lies in consumer goals. Whereas Lewis and Digital Pulp found that computer shopping led to more browsing, Prasad and 1-800-Flowers.com found the opposite.
“We've learned that people aren't as interested in [browsing] on their phones,” Prasad says, adding that customers want as few things brought to them as possible and that they look for instant response.
But perhaps no tactic has changed online retail experience quite like social networking, and online retailers are exploring how to best utilize it. Scott Tilton, CEO of sports social networking site Loop'd, which worked on a partnership with Pacific Sunwear, warns it's not just about slapping some ads up on MySpace, Facebook or YouTube. Some brands, he says, don't understand the time it takes to effectively leverage social media and social networking. As marketing through that channel grows in popularity, companies will have to allocate resources internally to best tackle it.
“At the end of the day, social networking just puts [companies] in touch with consumers — if they don't tell them what to do, they won't be able to do it,” says Tilton. “It's really critical for a brand to figure out exactly what it wants to accomplish, if it wants to get more people into its e-commerce channel.”
1-800-Flowers.com: Mobile campaign
1-800-Flowers.com and AT&T joined forces for the Cupid Goes Wireless campaign, which enables AT&T wireless subscribers to order flowers through a mobile Web application. Customers can also send free animated floral bouquets from 1-800-Flowers.com to friends and family through AT&T's Multimedia store. The program launched on February 1.
Pacific Sunwear: Social networking
Loop'd Network built a branded social network community for Pacific Sunwear. The community is meant to attract amateur athletes in search of sponsorships to the retailer; these athletes become brand advocates by wearing and promoting Pac-Sun's products. Registration is mostly driven through the Pac-Sun Web site, but is also visible on other Loop'd networks. Launched in November 2007, the Pacific Sunwear community has 10,000 members.
Lancome: Optimized e-commerce site
Lancome tapped agency Digital Pulp to rework its Web site, seeking to increase site visits and purchases, and reduce abandonment rates. New features on the site allow greater personalization in the browsing process. When an item is selected, the site recommends complementary products. Since the site launched last May, the average order is about 10% higher, site visitors who make a purchase rose 20% and abandonment rates decreased by 20%.