Stevens Design Studio Attends NEMOA Conference

We recently attended the Fall 2005 NEMOA (New England Mail Order Association) Conference. Stevens Design Studio is a proud sponsor of this event. This conference presents the latest in catalog and e-commerce trends and technologies. We would like to pass on some of this information to you.

The following article is information condensed from a presentation by Ken Burke, President and CEO of Market Live.

Trends in Online Merchandising
Online retailers struggle to compete with retail stores, with their inclusive shopping experience and the hands-on nature of retail shopping. Analyzing current trends in online merchandising provides a valuable solution to addressing this issue. Leading online retailers continue to update their merchandising techniques to create a more unique shopping experience for their customers by:
  • Holding the customer’s limited attention
  • Urging visitors to click further into their website
  • Increasing time spent in their online store and ultimately increasing sales

Alternative Category Navigation
Traditionally, e-commerce retailers try to organize their products according to some sort of category grouping. If you visit the average apparel website, you'll find standard categorization for Women and Men, Boys and Girls, or shirts, pants, outerwear, etc.

Alternative category navigation groups merchandise in creative ways in order to elicit an emotional response and appeal to a wider variety of shopping styles. Today many online retailers are pushing their category groupings into a lesser role in favor of thematic categories. A home goods store, for example, might categorize merchandise into "getting spooky for Halloween" or "decking the halls for Christmas", and group related items that can be used within that experience.

Collection Selling
Collection selling is related to alternative category navigation. Collections display products together in order to show how the items are used together and encourage the visitor to purchase multiple items. Merchants have seen an average 10-25% increase in sales when selling products this way. This is particularly useful when displaying a collection of items, not necessarily thematically related, but that are commonly used together. Possibly a new line of cleaning products from a carpet cleaning company that are all used for cleaning rust stains, but do not belong in the same traditional category (e.g., a pre-treater, the detergent used to remove the stain and the hand tool that can be used with it).

Merchandised Content
E-commerce retailers now pull together stories around the fit, collection, events or other aspects of their visitors lifestyle or their particular target audience. Bed, Bath & Beyond featured a "Shop for College" category that included decorating tips, financial advice and numerous student guides - spanning topics that a new or returning college student would find of interest. Integrated throughout was merchandised content such as "Got a Dorm Problem?" with links to addressing specific dorm room issues. For example, "Not enough space in your room?" - includes commentary on the size of dorm rooms with links to relevant products that can help organize your dorm room.

Checklists should be an essential merchandising tactic for any e-commerce store. This suggestive selling easily combines a more brick and mortar tactic of cross-selling. A checklist provides a way for your visitor to get all the items needed for a certain activity, season, event, place, time or style. For example, an e-commerce retailer selling high school science supplies may prompt a buyer who is purchasing a microscope to buy associated items. When the visitor views the product description page, on the side or bottom of that same page are items frequently purchased with microscopes (e.g., slides or lesson plans).

Interactive Buyers Guides
This approach aims to provide navigation to assist the visitor with narrowing their options during the selection process. Interactive buyer’s guides can break down a decision into a series of multiple-choice questions. Products are then recommended based upon the visitor’s answers. Technology has made buyer’s guides much more interactive, producing far more specific and appropriate recommendations. At that same science supply e-commerce site, they might prompt the visitor by learning:
  • Who will be using the product?
  • What are important product features?
  • How important is ease of use?
  • What is the customer’s level of interest?
The page they end up on has only the products that match the user’s needs.

Success on the Internet requires the same level of commitment as any other integral part of your business. Anticipating your visitors' needs and presenting them with shopping options that meet those needs will payoff in the end.

More facts and figures from the conference, thanks to Chris McDonald, Executive VP of Abacus.

The Catalogers
By bringing offline customers online, retailers were able to cut marketing costs almost in half per order placed ($12 to $8), with store-based ($5) and catalog-based ($7) retailers most successful in this endeavor. At $10, web-based retailers had the highest marketing costs per order, but this is still a big savings compared with previous years. (

  • 44.7% of retailers have three channels: catalog, retail store and website
  • 98% of catalogers have websites
  • Catalog sales are growing at 8% a year or more
  • Catalog categories showing strength
    • Home and garden products
    • Apparel and footwear
    • Food
    • Sporting goods
    • Kids products
The Buyers
In a study conducted by Forrester Research it was reported that online retail sales have grown over 40% from the previous year. This growth is an indicator of how important it will be for any company to be communicating with their customers and prospects through multiple marketing channels.
  • 80% of buyers are tri-channel
  • 46% of online customers also purchase offline
  • 17% of offline customers purchase online
  • 15% of offline sales are influenced by the web
  • Tri-channel buyers are 3.6x more valuable than dual channel buyers
  • How they buy:
    • Call center 42%
    • Website 38%
    • Retail store 20%
  • Experience drives their preferences
  • Product relevance is key

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