How to create the perfect e-commerce website
LONDON - Pureplays have always led the way when it comes to the perfect e-commerce site, but now they need to take their game to the next level.
Agent Provocateur faces competition from Knickerpicker.com
Pureplay retailers have defined the online shopping experience since the early days of e-commerce. Nearly a decade later they continue to come out on top of their high-street rivals in terms of functionality, price, merchandise and content, according to a survey of 7,000 shoppers by ForeSee Results.
However, figures from Hitwise show that during November 2008, the top 100 high- street retailer websites received 22 per cent more traffic in the UK than the top 100 pureplay-only retailers.
With 30 high-street names now in the top 50 IMRG-Hitwise Hot Shops List, there is growing evidence that consumers are turning to the online propositions of trusted brands that offer greater value for money in these uncertain times. As a result, the high street is looking to those pureplay sites that have benchmarked customer-satisfaction levels for best-practice guidance and innovation in e-commerce.
Having set the standards, bastions such as amazon.com and play.com, are now looking to build more competitive next-generation sites that enhance the customer shopping experience and can adapt quickly to the constantly changing consumer habits. With multi-channel high-street brands breathing down their necks, pureplay online retailers need to push on with the building blocks of next-generation e-commerce site design and functionality.
The immediate nature of online commerce means that new sites are emerging every day and, as long as the 19 per cent year-on-year growth e-commerce in the UK enjoyed in January continues, so will new store launches. It's not every day, however, that sites that truly break the mould and set a blueprint for the future come along.
To help out, we've identified five of the hottest new e-commerce sites and discovered the secrets behind their success.
Community and participative e-commerce - zazzle.com
As retailers seek to engage with online customers, an increasing number of sites are incorporating user-feedback applications or space for user-generated comments on individual products. It's a great way to encourage customers to become brand advocates and develop a conversation around user habits.
Online retailer Zazzle has gone one step further and developed a unique selling point that may herald the future for next-generation pureplay sites.
Zazzle has more than 12 billion customisable products and has grown its customer base to just under three million unique users in just a year. Consumers can design and buy bespoke t-shirts, hats, mugs, shoes, skateboards and other items. They can also design and sell their artwork across Zazzle's entire range to other consumers or simply purchase individually designed items that someone else has created.
Agency Acceleration works with San Francisco-based Zazzle on its web analytics and email marketing. Founder Stephan Pretorius says: "It's participative e-commerce that has built a community of buyers and sellers and proved exceptionally popular.
"However, Zazzle's patented colour-print technology allows it to manufacture multicoloured items especially t-shirts and other clothing for pennies at a time."
Invisible innovation - manbagcompany.com
In order to adapt to changing consumer trends, site testing is vital, along with having the ability in-house to react quickly by updating design and functionality as and when product collections are updated.
Bain Ellisdon is the founder and creative director of Manbagcompany.com. The site, which offers fun and fashionable bags to men, launched in October last year and Ellisdon has her sights set on seeing her collection and digital offering grow together.
"As the collection evolves, we encourage our customers to engage with the brand identity of the website," she says. "We have an in-house team that develops the benefits and promotions for users signing up to our VIP club, as well as ensuring that the site's functionality and design develops in tandem with the product."
Established fashion sites such as netaporter.com still set the standard for an evolving online store. Pod1 founder Fadi Shuman has worked with the high-end fashion retailer on marketing campaigns.
He comments: "It's a site that is constantly evolving and improving without the customer really noticing. Users who return to an online store to find that it's drastically changed are regularly put off by the non- familiar format or navigation. This is why the best online retailers succeed with evolutionary website changes and not revolutionary revamps."
Strong brand voice - moo.com
Printing service Moo.com specialises in custom mini-cards, sticker books and postcards. It allows users to import photos from a desktop or social networking site such as Facebook or Flickr.
An informal, yet consistent, brand voice resonates throughout the functionality of Moo.com, an essence that founder and chief executive Richard Moross felt passionately about conveying.
He says: "The perception of printing is quite boring and complicated, and the purchasing process that users go through is an entirely digital one, so we wanted to reassure our customers that there are real people behind the scenes and that the brand voice is an expression of our personalities."
The site's personality shines through via a number of mechanics including a blog and an email from a 'Little Moo' automated robot each time a purchase is made, telling customers when their product will be printed and dispatched. "There are places on the site where we have had to temper our personality by offering important information, for example in the FAQ section, and this has been carefully thought through in minute detail, says Moross. "You will start to see more brand voice coming through in next-generation retail sites because it's an important element in the pursuit of consumer trust."
Product navigation - knickerpicker.com
"It's important to consider an online brand beyond simply making it trustworthy enough to encourage the handing over of credit card details. Product ranges need to stand out and work harder to give consumers a reason to buy, often reflecting lifestyle," says Ranzie Anthony, managing director of Tonic.
A great example is Agent Provocateur's site. It has a good balance of e-commerce functionality, a brand story and well categorised collections. But bricks and mortar retailers can still learn a lot from their pureplay online counterparts. The flexibility to rapidly deploy new product categories based on changing themes or market trends is something that physical retail environments are slow to emulate.
One pureplay that will have got Agent Provocateur's knickers in a twist is rival lingerie site Knickerpicker.com. The online retailer uses videos of different-sized women modelling its underwear to get across its product information. The site also includes an interactive dressing-room facility. Users are able to dress one of five varying-sized models in chosen lingerie and then instruct the model to walk forward or turn around in order to obtain a full view of the product.
Eye candy and interaction - serentaflowers.com
Exploring and testing new technologies and additional features is one way that pureplays strive to stay ahead of the competition.
An example is floristry site Serentaflowers.com, which Pod1's Shuman believes is among the best at implementing interactivity to its listings and product pages.
"Serentaflowers does interactivity extremely well," he says. "See how items within each page change when they're scrolled over, or when you select price filters without the whole page changing. It's exceptionally slick."
Andy Houstoun, global head of marketing for e-commerce company Venda, predicts that being able to almost touch the product through a site's design will become more and more important. "Not having advanced rotation and zoom capacity will significantly impact a customer's ability to make a purchase decision," he says.
This article was first published on revolutionmagazine.com
Latest jobs Jobs web feed
- Brand Manager Radisson Blu Edwardian, London Competitive , South Kensington, London
- Account Director- Exciting Online Content Marketing Company- Up to £70,000 plus OTE Cedar Scott Up to £70,000 basic (up to £90,000 OTE) plus share options, Central London
- ACCOUNT DIRECTOR/SENIOR ACCOUNT DIRECTOR - BTL/SP/Brand Experience - London - £45 - £55k plus bonus Judi Patton £45K-55K plus bonus, London/Greater London
- Senior Planning Director, International Agency, London, to £120k Fill Recruitment Ltd to £120,000, Central London
- Head of Customer Analytics - Consultancy Harnham £90000 - £100000 per annum + benefits, London
- Senior PPC Account Manager (In-house) Step Ahead Recruitment £30-£40K, Staines, Middlesex
Integrated digital marketing offers huge opportunities to engage, servic...
Mobile marketing is coming of age, and the pace of change is now exponen...
With UK consumers spending an average of £1,083 a year online, int...
Conversational Mobile Marketing: Engage Customers and Empower Advocates (Expert Reports) External website
The pressure is on for marketers and mobile operators to embrace a strat...
As a nation, the UK is media and technology obsessed with over half of t...
All customers have the potential to become your brand advocates, driving...