Make sure new features are what customers want: Shop.org panelist

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NEW YORK - Turning a critical eye to existing retail Web sites, Shop.org annual summit panelists in "eCommerce 3.0: How to win in the coming era of E-Commerce" predicted what will draw online buyers in the future.

Empowering the customer with controlled choices and leveraging digital technology to make shopping easier, branded and more entertaining were resounding themes at the panel Oct. 12.

"The customer will ultimately drive innovation," said Robert Myers, senior vice president of QVC. "You really have to be careful and make sure [new site features are] what a customer wants."

One of the sites examined was a recently relaunched Nike.com. It uses a Flash interface to keep all the transactions - from browsing to checkout - in one free-flowing application rather than numerous pages. The search function allows users to refine product lists including gender, color, availability and sport.

"We have so many different types of consumers visiting the site," said Danielle Quatrochi, senior manager of e-commerce at Nike.com. "We looked at it top down. No matter where you start on that search function you end up drilling down to similar categories."

Rather than using the platform to support older shopping models like catalogs or telesales, the Internet provides consumers with a unique way to access products and product information.

"The model itself is a comparative model," said Paul Miller, senior vice president of Sears Holding Company. "Deciding what online shopping should be like has never before been an organic process."

Children's apparel retailer Gymboree allows parents to create personalized online stores for each of their children. A brief profile setup allows the retailer to present only products that are in the child's size and cater to the child's gender. Parents could also customize by sales price and clothing line.

"Variability in the digital world is free," said panel moderator Doug Mack, CEO of Scene 7. "You can use it broadly."

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