Online Product Merchandizing and Persuasive Momentum

We’re beginning to gather the information and reexamine criteria for our 2004 Study for Customer Focused Excellence. Last year, from a pool of 60 retailers analyzed, Lands’ End was the overall winner. This year, we’ll weigh some categories more heavily and add new subcategories and questions. The new subcategories relate to product merchandizing and helping create persuasive momentum.

Some retailers are much better at sweating the small stuff than others. It’s the extra effort to make visitors feel more confident, trusting, and well informed that rewards retailers with more sales. Today, I’ll take you on a sample visit to several retailers who sell hiking boots. I’ll illustrate the effects of effective merchandising and show how some of these retailers create persuasive momentum.

Our first trip is to classic cataloger L.L. Bean. L.L. Bean simply offers several interesting bullet points, then an additional paragraph about its boots. It also offers a photo, swatches of available colors, and an option to view a larger photo. Click for the larger photo, and a pop-up shows about 25 percent of the boot enlarged. To see the rest of the photo, you must scroll horizontally and vertically or resize the page. When looking at hiking boots, I’m concerned with the thread. But nowhere am I presented with any option to inspect the boot’s sole.

Next, Campmor, which offers a dozen bullets to describe its hiking boots. However, it doesn’t provide any additional blurb or ability to enlarge the image. To its credit, Campmor offers a link to view the sole’s detail. Clicking on the link pops up a window with a line drawing of the boot’s sole. The drawing most likely came from the manufacturer.

Let’s move on to Cabela’s. It offers a good-sized image with both the top and the sole of the boot showing, as well as a short descriptive blurb. However, it doesn’t offer the option to enlarge the image.

One other thing it does well (and which works effectively on several sites) is offer links for the previous and next items within the same category. This option allows visitors to continue their momentum without pogo-sticking back and forth between product and category pages.

Our last hiking-boot visit takes us to REI. REI does the best job of merchandizing hiking boots. An image shows both the top and sole of the boot. The page has a blurb with bullet points and a separate specs area. There’s a link to a comparison chart for similar products. REI also offers previous and next links to navigate from one product to the next in the category, as well as links category pages.

What’s more, you can view an enlarged image. This is one area REI excels at. Click to see the larger view, and you’ll get a new product page with an enlarged image. On that page you can add the boots to your order. This keeps the visitor in the persuasive momentum by not opening up some foreign window that must be closed to continue shopping. Here also are links for previous and next items, the category page, and back to the original product info page. REI can add more information about the boots, such as reviews, if it chooses, because the page has been designed so flexibly.

Our goal is to increase the amount of Web sites we visit this year while increasing the breadth and depth of research we conduct. We’ll reconsider Web sites based on their reported sales volume, expected sales volume, reputation for innovation, and customer focus.

If you could help us out, please let us know what some of your favorite e-tailers are and why you like them. We’ll try to include their sites in our research and report back to you.

Meet Bryan at Search Engine Strategies in San Jose. Also, join us at ClickZ’s upcoming AdForum.

Nominate your favorite product or campaign from July 7 through close of business July 14.

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