Image is Everything with Online Retail

Patti RennerImage isn’t everything… it’s the only thing. Of course, this is a serious corruption of the classic Vince Lombardi quote on winning, but when it comes to your website and your overall online marketing presence — especially for retailers – image absolutely matters.
With this in mind, I always find it interesting to see how established luxury brands approach the Web. For a while there, it was almost as if they were ignoring the Internet, hoping it would go away – leaving them to focus on their glossy showrooms and bright runways. But that didn’t happen, so they jumped in (with some delay). It wasn’t long ago that some major labels had little more than flashy brochures to show off their lines, with poor navigation and no link to purchase. Of course, they’ve come a long way, but as a recent Forrester report points out, there’s still room for growth.

As much as I enjoyed seeing the Forrester analysts dissect the functionality of sites for several luxury brands (including Burberry, Dolce&Gabbana, Gucci, Hermes, and Louis Vuitton), I found their evaluation criteria to be even more interesting. Allow me to share a few basic concepts with you. Then I suggest you to take a look at your own site (and those of your competitors) to see how things stack up.

Navigation: Are the products easy to find through site navigation? Can you comparison shop onsite? Can you narrow the categories to access product information easily?

Search: Can you easily find the search box, and is it available on all pages? Do you have autosuggestion of search terms? Do results include the price of the item? Are recent searched displayed in a comprehensive manner?

Merchandising: Is there a clear path to purchase? Do you offer suggestions (“You may also like”) for consideration of other items? Do you use video and/or image zoom features? Do you cross-sell items with “add to the bag” suggestions? Do you show your in-stock inventory?

Blended Channels: Can you return online purchases to a bricks-and-mortar location? Do you clearly qualify “online only” or “in-store only” items? Do you offer ship-to-store and/or in-store pickup?

Community: Can users “tag” products, share them with friends via social media or email, and easily access ratings and reviews?

Purchase Process: Is the link to the shopping cart in global navigation? Is the total cost of purchase (including all fees and taxes) shown in the link to the cart? Do you offer extra savings (share the friends etc.) and are discounts shown in the cart? Can they save their address and customer information for later transactions?

Customer Service: How available is your customer support (telephone, FAQs, email, chat, click-to-call, etc.)? Can they easily access policies on the site for shipping, returns/exchanges, opt-in/opt-out, etc.?

What Forrester did not mention is the fact that all this customer behavioral data is extremely valuable for marketers. Does your customer data go into a profile-centric platform for use by marketing for more relevant messaging to each customer? Of course, you’d have to have a platform that can bring the multiple consumer touchpoints (including clicks, purchases, searches and more) into a unified profile-based environment. Once your data is all in one place in the right system, it’s easy to more efficiently segment and market specifically to the individual with more relevance and reach.

For instance, you see that Susie is really interested in that new purse with the bright red flower. She came back to the site and bought it. With Knotice, the next time Susie visits your site, you can serve up a “hero image” of the wallet and scarf that match her recent purchase. After all, image is everything – and onsite targeting is just one way to power your website images for better conversions and results.

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