“E-tail” has come a long way since 1995 (the year Amazon sold its first book and eBay was founded). Online shoppers have grown savvier and now value spending their dollars with companies that offer them that extra something. Retail outlets searching for a loyal e-commerce audience must consider offering more than just another portal to carry out transactions.
While much has been made about the movement of retail to the online space, traditional brick and mortar businesses aren’t the only ones who need to adapt to the modern e-commerce environment. Stale, unengaging, transactional focused sites should also be worried – offering a subpar or traditional e-commerce experience will leave sites stuck in 1995.
Today, the most innovative brands are those that push the traditional boundaries of e-commerce through packaging that makes an effort, pricing structures that put the customer first, copy that speaks like a human, innovative product distribution strategies, and personalized showrooms that simplify the purchase decision process.
Creating Customer Loyalty
Understanding what customers value will turn them into repeat customers. This means taking into consideration efforts that last longer than the item purchased itself: first impressions, experiences, and thoughtfulness. Once a business can capture their target consumer by doing online business differently, the site and brand will start to stand out in this trillion-dollar industry. With the abundance of strictly web-based retail offerings, foregoing conducting business face-to-face is still no excuse to overlook the finer details that will extend the brand’s essence through the digital sphere.
Best In Class Ecommerce
Whether it’s a traditional brick and mortar business looking to launch their product offering online or a new business concept that will be solely virtual, brands must have an edge that will drive customers to their site and then draw them in upon arrival.
I spent some time crawling the web for examples of eCommerce outlets offering out-of-the-box digital shopping experiences. Here are my top “e-tail” sites that are making an effort against business as usual.
Photojojo: Captivating Copy
Any brand that does a good job at sounding like a real human deserves to be recognized. Doesn’t this simple copy intrigue you and make you want to learn more? Photojojo doesn’t take themselves too seriously. Upon browsing their site, I quickly found they do offer the most “marvelous, stupendous, outrageous, fantabulous, prodigious [and] tremendous” photography accessories on the planet. They are also transparent – they want customers to share their content by offering high-res photo download options for each of their products. They give clear and easy instructions on how to use them on your blog, site, or for print.
BONUS: a token dinosaur toy arrives with your package. It’s humorous and thoughtful – a small gesture that goes along way to communicate Photojojo’s digital space persona into a real-world, physical element.
StyleMint: Online Personal Shopper Meets Curated Showroom
Busy life? Don’t have time to browse 40,000 items offered from other online retailers? No problem. Style Mint is the brainchild of Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen, backed by a larger group of celebrity curated, member only, direct to consumer sites. They already know my style because I answered a few basic questions about what I like to wear, which is then cleverly used to create my own personal curated showroom. I don’t need to browse multiple sites to find something I like or get the perfect. StyleMint’s algorithms have made my online experience that much more efficient, simple, and specialized. A brand that knows what I like or need is a brand I want to be friends with.
Everlane: Rid Yourself of the Luxury Middleman and Foster Organic User Generated Content
Everlane’s vision is clear – eliminate the middleman when it comes to designer, luxury goods. It’s a new retail mentality that puts the customer first. Everlane has found a niche in consumers who want luxury items without the markups. Items arrive beautifully wrapped in craft paper with a small thank you note tucked inside. This small detail goes far in making a good impression on customers. Where Everlane wins big is that these little details naturally compel social savvy fashionistas to share photos of their Everlane parcels on social media. Look at these packages, who wouldn’t want to snap a photo and post it to their social profile?
I have ordered countless items online that arrive in factory plastic bags with a warehouse waybill enclosed – not very glamorous or special. No one is going to post a photo of their new dress in a plastic bag that states “not a toy” or “keep away from small children to prevent choking”.
But, Everlane’s most noteworthy marketing strategy is their #CrowdFundCanada campaign. A consumer call-to-action driven campaign that asked consumers to pledge their shopping dollars towards Everland in an effort to make shipping available up north. The innovative, simple call-to-action was a resounding success: Shipping north of the 49th parallel began in March.
ebay Now ‘Brings It’ With Same Day Shipping
eBay Now has solved a problem most of us have encountered at one time or another:
1. Needing a tool to complete a home reno project you are smack dab in the middle of
2. Wanting a new outfit for an impulsive special dinner with friends after work
3. Picking up that birthday gift you meant to buy but couldn’t because you got stuck in meetings all day and the party is just after work
This new eBay offering is an app based, mobile-only shopping experience aimed specifically at solving these “in a pinch” problems. Customers can order an item during their morning commute and have it delivered in time for their morning coffee break.
To further gain consumers’ trust, eBay partnered with big box retailers that include the likes of Best Buy, Macys, Wallgreens, Office Depot and Target. It’s an ingenious way to help these large, traditional brick and mortar businesses expand their customer base, while gaining visibility online and targeting on-the-go customers.
Currently, eBay Now is only available in San Francisco, San Jose, and some parts of New York City. It will be interesting to see if they follow suit with Everlane’s example and expand their services to other major cities in the US and Canada.
MOO: Quality Products and Reusable Packaging
MOO was born out of the love for amazing, high quality prints with a goal to be the best print shop in the world. MOO’s personality is fun, creative and enjoyable to engage with. They are not just selling a printing service, but also inspiration. A large section of the site is dedicated to design ideas for their numerous products and how a brand can creatively stand out with MOO print materials, best practice examples from satisfied customers to help others visualize what MOO can do for them, and even a “Startup Toolkit” page where customers can gain knowledge about building their own business from a carefully selected group of Startup experts. The “Startup Toolkit” campaign encourages users to share their own business tips on Twitter with Moo’s hashtag #MooStartupKit, further extending their brand’s reach. Talk about marketing as a service!
Returning customers are “personally” welcomed back to the site, with their shipping address and payment information conveniently saved in the system, which goes a long way in simplifying the checkout process and creates further incentive to purchase. No graphic designer? No problem. Users can easily import photos from their social media profiles or e-commerce presence; like Flickr, Facebook or Etsy, to create a personalized, DIY design.
With Moo you can forget the standard, flimsy, throw away box received from other printers. Business cards, stickers, and postcards in a beautiful, bright, and for the most part, reusable packaging. It helps keep materials in prime condition whether they’re stored in your briefcase or your desk. In addition, the beautiful, reusable packaging creates consumer conversations and allows the brand persona to live past the life of product, keeping MOO top of mind when it’s time to re-order.
Now that we’ve taken a peek at some of my favorite eCommerce sites, start thinking about the value your site and products have to offer current and potential customers. Developing a satisfactory, memorable brand experience from end to end doesn’t have to be complicated and can begin with something as simple as a personalized thank you card included with orders or a small keepsake memento that resonates with your brand personality.
What are some of your favorite online stores? Tweet who you think stands out in the crowd to @Invoke.