The road to e-commerce success is lined with brands that have fallen by the wayside, either through not understanding what it is that today’s online shopper demands, or failing to match expectations with results. However, there are some exceptional examples of brands that have seen the potential of technology to enhance the customer experience and run with it to produce incredible e-commerce sites which have collected millions of fans, and inspired legions of imitators. Let’s take a look at some of the best in the marketplace:
Blending content with commerce
Around 6 million women are reputed to visit the high-end fashion retailer’s site every month, so they clearly have a fantastic relationship with their market. The homepage is dominated by Net-A-Porter’s online magazine Edit which features the standard mix of style, beauty and lifestyle commentary with accompanying adverts, but with one key difference, in that the clothes in every image, including the ads, can be clicked through to the online store, where users can get more information and make a purchase. And after purchase, Net-A-Porter also offer a 24-hour concierge support service to help with product queries and issues.
This innovative approach is complemented by Net-A-Porter’s “creative solutions department” which works with advertisers to effectively tell their brands’ stories. The recently launched Porter magazine, which comes in traditional ink and paper format, is another typically bold creative move - readers can scan the pages with their smartphones to go directly to the relevant page on the website. Their brother site, Mr Porter is hot-on-their heels too, offering a consistent e-commerce experience.
It’s a revolutionary tactic that has served the brand incredibly well - the site had €550 million sales in 2013 and is valued at €2.5 billion.
Disrupting customer service
Warby Parker, the US online glasses retailer, has only a few physical branches scattered around the USA, yet superb brand recognition. How? By a clear focus on harnessing the goodwill of users with excellent customer service, one of the most integral facets of successful e-commerce. Here’s how they’ve disrupted the traditional model:
All you need to be reasonably sure you’re making the best purchase is right there online, with a virtual facility for trying glasses on, by uploading a photo of your face. Models wearing specs are photographed at multiple angles and using a webcam the site can even calculate your pupillary distance. All the imagery is clear and distinct, with abundant product information available too. So far nothing too out of the ordinary. What makes Warby Parker’s e-commerce offering really stand out is that you can choose 5 pairs to be sent to you, which you can then sample for a week before sending back those you don’t want, or order 5 more if needed - entirely free of charge. And yet the glasses remain very good value. The problem of what to do about shipping charges is one affecting all e-commerce sites - what Warby Parker have done is turn it into one of their USPs!
Staying relevant in a digital age
WWRD, composed of Wedgwood, Waterford and Royal Doulton, incorporates some of the country’s most prestigious homeware and design brands. In 2010/11 it was decided to merge them all into one portal which would then unfold into separate e-commerce sites.
What they’ve essentially done is multiplied the consumer engagement factor, by utilising very similar web design and product categories for each site to make navigation much simpler, whilst keeping them individually-distinct but memorable with large, beautifully-photographed imagery to showcase the elegance and craftsmanship of their products.
Store locator and social media buttons are placed within easy reach, and there are also regular pop-ups to capture visitor data. When adding products to the shopping cart, messages will flash up to encourage progression to the shopping cart. WWRD has gone mobile too, in another clear effort to maintain its relevance among younger consumers.
Getting everything right
Very few fashion brands have embraced digital strategy with as much gusto as Burberry, and fewer still have been so victorious. It’s been phenomenally successful in marrying its traditional image (the brand is over 150 years old, and neatly it's 'Prorsum' strapline means 'forward' in Latin - how clever Mr Burberry was) with a modern outlook.
The website is extremely user-friendly across all devices, again with stacks of large imagery to highlight products well, and simple yet effective calls to action. Interestingly, Burberry’s flagship London store has a layout that mirrors their website sitemap, dividing product categories in the same way as the e-commerce store. They’re also experimenting with embedding digital chips into certain products that then trigger video displays as customers move around the store, giving more product information. So clearly no slouch when it comes to technological innovation.
The brand took quite a measured approach to social media, moving slowly in an effort to get it right. They now have 17 million likes on Facebook, and nearly 3 million followers on Twitter where, incidentally, they operate a 24/7 customer service program. They have been madly popular on social media, especially FB and YouTube, sharing catwalk footage, new collections, and announcements of new stores opening, and being met with high levels of engagement.
Any companies seeking to crack e-commerce should study these examples. Have we missed any best-in-class? Let us know