Retailers will embrace Web 2.0 this holiday season

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There has been a lot of talk in the past two years in the e-commerce world about Web 2.0 but, this holiday season, expect less talk and more action. Retailers gearing up for the busiest time of the year are putting more effort into making the online experience more like an in-store experience.

“As stores try to differentiate, they are thinking about the ways that customers want to shop,” said Julian Chu, director of client success at Demandware. “They are beginning to present products in a lifestyle context.”

Playboy is using AJAX technology on its e-commerce site to create a more lifestyle-oriented shopping experience and to make transactions smoother and more integrated. The online retailer has a new merchandising function in which products are presented as a line within a photograph, like a catalog. But, unlike a paper catalog, shoppers who like Playboy's “vested interest set” can click to instantly buy the whole outfit.

Pottery Barn is also taking advantage of this kind of merchandising, It presents photos of products in a home, versus just as a thumbnail. When consumers scroll over a couch or a coffee table, they can add it directly to the cart.

Retailers are also giving product recommendations within the shopping cart based on other products in the cart or on how the consumer selected an item. For example, on Timberland.co.uk, a shoppers who added a pair of men's boots to his cart on the Outdoor Performance page may receive a different recommendation than one who selected the boots from the Men's Footwear page.

Last year there were many user reviews on retail sites but, this year, expect to see these reviews go beyond the site.

“We are seeing clients using user-generated reviews as digital marketing assets and putting them into catalogs and e-mails,” said Sam Decker, CMO of
Bazaarvoice.

Petco is one of these clients. It uses user reviews in its e-mail newsletter and will continue this through the holidays.

Decker continued, “We may even begin to see retailers using [reviews] in stores, in the form of signage, as a part of merchandising.”

According to both Decker and Chu, more retailers are also offering gifts under a certain price on home pages, so consumers can more easily navigate to gifts for people whom they are not yet sure what to get.

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