My Favorite Sites of the Year

It’s the end of the year and the end of an amazing decade for e-commerce. So, in keeping with the time-honored tradition of awarding “bests” at the end of the year, I’m listing some of my favorites sites and site features of the year. I always enjoy discovering new sites and techniques when I read other people’s lists like this, so I hope you’ll find something interesting in my web award show.

The overall best e-commerce site award goes to:

Moosejaw.com

Moosejaw has it all. They’ve done an excellent job creating a very intuitive site that provides lots of options to narrow your selection; you can easily sort by price, color, size and brand. They have lots of what they call “custy reviews” available for their products, and you can even choose a “custy reviews” search/browse results page that highlights recent reviews in the product listing. Moosejaw has a great checkout process that does a good job of guiding the customer through the process, and their error messaging is clear and easy to understand. And no commentary on Moosejaw would be complete without mention of their Madness section, which is full of wacky content that keeps you coming back for more. In a final stroke of branding brilliance, Moosejaw provides free Moosejaw flags to anyone who requests them, and encourages people to take photos of themselves with Moosejaw flags at the height of their adventures, literally, like at the top of a mountain. What a brilliant way to make your customers your greatest marketers. As a final point of support for this award, when I asked people around the office for their favorites sites, Moosejaw was by far the most common choice.

Runner-up

Net-a-Porter

Net-a-Porter shows they understand how their customers shop, and they understand that the self-service experience of the web requires extra attention. They have a prominent “What’s New” section, and their landing pages get right to the products (without lots of “window” signs screaming about promotions). Each item in the listing has an alternate view when hovering over it, which is becoming fairly common, but Net-a-Porter uses and alternate view that features the item being worn rather than just showing it from the back. When you click through to the product pages, there are many more product views and some items have an excellent video of a model walking in the clothes so customers can see how the clothing looks in action. Finally, there are details about how items fit and an invitation to contact a “Fashion Advisor” for more help if you need it.

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Best use of video:

K-Swiss

I’ve always wondered why more sites don’t do what K-Swiss is doing with their product videos. Namely, use them as the primary image for the product when they’re available.

When you arrive at a product page that features a video (which, unfortunately, isn’t all of them) the video launches immediately and shows a model walking in the item. You can easily switch the view to see her walking from the front, from either side and from the back.  And best of all, there’s not sound that could get a workplace shopper in trouble. 🙂 K-Swiss also features multiple static images of product to ensure customers are getting as much information as possible.

Runner-up

Ice.com

Ice.com is also making excellent use of video and using it as their primary image when a video is available. And they’re getting great results. Ice’s Pinny Gniwisch reports conversion rates jumping a whopping 400% after customers view a video, and return rates drop 25% for products with videos. Video really helps give customers a much better understanding of what they’re buying, which helps to remove one more barrier to purchasing products online. I’m really impressed with the quality of the short videos they’re producing, as well. The folks at Ice.com clearly understand the value of video, and they’re making the right investment to improve their business.

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Most interesting merchandising tool:

Polyvore

Polyvore is not a retailer, but that doesn’t mean there’s not something to learn from or leverage what they’re doing. They call themselves “a fashion community site that lets you mix and match products from any online store to create outfits or any kind of collage. It is also a vibrant community of creative and stylish people.” They have a really cool drag and drop capability that let’s visitors “create looks” from product feeds from many different retailers. Essentially, the visitors become merchandisers, and they’re looks are posted to be voted on and commented on by the community. The best looks rise to the top. There are some really amazing collections, and of course each product has a buy button. Polyvore is now making their technology available to retailers, as can be seen in Charlotte Russe “Design Your Outfit” section.

Runner up:

Hunch

Hunch is also not a retailer, but as with Polyvore, there’s lots to learn and leverage. Hunch describes themselves as “a decision-making tool that gets smarter the more you use it. After asking you 10 questions or less, Hunch will provide a concrete result for decisions of every kind.” Basically, they ask you a series of questions and then provide product recommendations that match. The general concept is not new, but Hunch’s implementation is the best I’ve seen and it gets better the more it’s used. They’re using the community to build and refine the question sets, and they’re covering a massive range of topics. The whole experience is really addictive.

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Most proactive:

Restaurant.com

Poorly written error messages are the bane of the web and a shameful way to lose sales, as I’ve previously discussed. But even well written error messages can be annoying because they come after the fact. Restaurant.com has taken a proactive approach in their account creation process. As a visitor enters a form field, a small box appears to the right giving the user detailed descriptions about what’s expected to be entered and, when appropriate, giving the reason why it’s important. Try it out to see how helpful it is.

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I could go on and on about lots of great features on a lot of different sites, but the seven above really stood out for me as great examples worth checking out.

But there are tons of great sites I haven’t even seen.

What sites stand out for you? I would be grateful if you’d use the comments section to share your favorites with the rest of us.

17 Comments

  • By Sarah, December 29, 2009 @ 2:49 pm

    I am a big fan of the simple stuff. For example, Overstock.com added a tiny icon at the thumbmail level letting you know which products could be shipped by Christmas. It saved so much time!

    My E-Retail Raspberry Award goes to MyBedazzler.com (is a Bedazzler not the perfect gift for a 5 yo girl who likes everything to sparkle?). It is awful in every way.

  • By Jason, December 30, 2009 @ 9:45 am

    This hasn’t been implemented as far as I know, but when it is this would be a killer feature for clothing shopping at home: “Take off your clothes. Turn on the webcam.”

    http://creativity-online.com/work/zugara-fashionista/17993

  • By Shannon, December 30, 2009 @ 9:56 am

    An old standby, but I continue to go back to sites that make it easy to buy (imagine!). Amazon.com – best price and extremely easy to use and order things. Saves my credit card and shipping so I can log in from anywhere, hit buy and it just charges and ships…It drives me nuts when I have to re-enter all my info and shipping for regularly visited sites…

  • By Adrianne, December 30, 2009 @ 10:16 am

    It was great to see GarnetHill.com (one of my favs) really branch out this Holiday season. They communicated consistently via email, changed up their homepage to showcase more merchandise, held a charity fundraiser, highlighted discounts, rewarded loyalists, offered free shipping…and still kept their beloved Sale of the Day. 🙂

  • By Kristine, December 30, 2009 @ 10:18 am

    Gap.com is my favorite site and one to learn from. As you can see, you can shop 5 sites with very different focus and enjoy, as they say, “5 stores, 1 low flat shipping rate”. This site is easy to navigate, you can easily check your shopping cart with a purchase from several of the stores, and here’s the best part, if one of the sites is offering a discount coupon to be used at check out for “no shipping fee”, it applies to all of the purchases. Very well organized, compelling to stay on the site and finish your shopping needs to be able to consolidate to one shipment, just “love, love love it!”

  • By Drew, December 30, 2009 @ 11:18 am

    This may be a little bit off of the beam but I love these guys stuff and their sites are really well put together. This is often a confusing thing to buy (KVM switches, networking, AV stuff) and I love all of the assistive stuff they do – guides, wizards, comparison functions, etc. as well as helping you get it right.

    IOGEAR – http://www.shopiogear.com/

    Another one I like is based on having a ton of stuff and a great set of community features that support it as well. Good integration with Social Media, their printed catalog, a bulletin board/community forum as well as a public wiki. If you are a DIY person this is a pretty nice set-up.

    SCOOTERWORKS – http://www.scooterworks.com/

  • By Rebecca, December 30, 2009 @ 11:50 am

    Thanks for the fun and insightful post!

    Here are a couple other cool things from this year in the world of retail:

    1)http://foursquare.com
    It’s not a retail site but a fun social network plus mobile app that rewards people with points who frequent businesses in their city or who try new places. It also offers mayorships to die-hard customers. Right now, it appears to be mainly restaurants and bars that reward frequent customers and mayors with special deals, but more retailers will probably get in the game in 2010.

    2) Augmented Reality Ads
    Brightkite added augmented reality advertising for U.S. markets in its Layar browser. From an article on Read Write Web, the ads are “relatively unobtrusive” but have some contextual issues. The ads currently seem to be just for Best Buy, as of the date of this article. However, this appears to be the first step in the brave new world of augmented reality and location-based advertising for mobile in the States.

    Read more about it here: http://www.readwriteweb.com/archives/mobile_advertising_augmented_reality.php

  • By Chris, December 30, 2009 @ 11:53 am

    Great post!

    I like Woot – http://www.woot.com/ and steepandcheap – http://www.steepandcheap.com/ – because they have a very interesting concept.

    Many retailers struggle with excess/end of season inventory and do not want to brand erode. As such, these sites enable a retailer to sell product while maintaining the brand…

  • By Keith, December 30, 2009 @ 11:58 am

    Great job of picking sites that are really innovative, fun and keep the consumer at the forefront. The online retailer I have been most impressed with this year is Martin + Osa – http://www.martinandosa.com. Love the page layout. Love the navigation. Love the brief but descriptive product descriptions. Love the product detail views. Really excellent site.

    I use Amazon the most do to their amazing range of products and even more amazing speed in processing and shipping products. I am a tireless user of their product peer reviews and I am an Amazon Prime member.

  • By Jason C, December 30, 2009 @ 1:09 pm

    Sites of the year! I like that! I have to admit that I love the online ordering capabilities at Domino’s Pizza. If you haven’t used it, it’s very easy to configure your pizza, even jalepenos on half (which I love). Once you complete your order, there is a status bar that indicates when your order is received, when it’s being prepared, when it’s being cooked, checked for accuracy, and delivered. I don’t know if the status bar is real or not, but it’s really fun to watch it progress and imagine your pizza being made.

    The other site that I think is cool is the Shop.Mattel.com site. In particular, their “Shop Together” feature which lets me shop with my son’s grandparents online for presents for him. Really cool. (They also have cool clickable video functionality on their site too.)

  • By Danny, December 30, 2009 @ 1:11 pm

    Fantastic post Kevin!

    From the social media angle I think some of these platforms/sites that are utilizing virtual currency are very clever. I am not sure if it fits in the retail category quite yet, but these sites/platforms/companies are bringing in a lot of revenue lately.

    One example is Zynga [http://www.zynga.com/chips/] and it’s family of games. Despite the fact that they are annoying to many people, they are doing an incredible job as far as garnering the attention of the masses!

  • By Joel, December 31, 2009 @ 7:49 am

    I’ve long been a fan of Landsend.com, for the way that you can easily use the web in conjunction with other channels (catalog, in-store). Once my wife was ordering over the phone from a catalog, and the operator directed her to a page containing a list of other colors for the same piece of clothing. The order was completed right on the phone, with the site as a supporting tool.

    They have web site kiosks in store that their associates freely point you to; they have an easy in-store returns for online orders; if you purchase something by using a returns credit you are not charged shipping. Other retailers would do well to provide such a seemless multi-channel experience.

  • By Sally, January 5, 2010 @ 8:29 am

    One of my all-time faves: zappos.com – while the website itself is not the greatest, they’ve managed to make online shoe shopping a great experience by providing detailed product descriptions, valuable customer reviews, easy ordering and returns; and their customer service is top notch. I took great pleasure in re-using my boxes this christmas just so I could send a packages that said ‘packed with happiness’ on the outside:)

  • By Pam, January 5, 2010 @ 12:37 pm

    Great list, Kevin! Here are some additional retail sites that are doing great things:

    ToysRUs.com:
    I like the giftfinder on ToysRUs.com — It helps you pick a gift based on the recipient’s age, gender, interests, etc.

    Lane Bryant:
    1) They have a quickview feature that pops up a window about a particular product, size availability, etc., without taking you away from the main products window

    2) They show all the colors available for each product right under each listing

    Lands End:
    Also Lands End does a nice thing with their product images – if you roll over the image on the main product browsing page, it gives you an alternate view. For example, go to http://www.landsend.com/ix/home-travel-luggage/Home-Travel/Totes-Bags/index.html?seq=1~2~3&catNumbers=256~1284&visible=1~2~1&store=le&sort=Recommended&tab=5&cm_re=D-9-2 and roll over one of the backpacks, and you will see the rear view (of the backpack straps).

    Chef’s Catalog:
    Another nice product image feature is on Chef’s Catalog (see http://www.chefscatalog.com/product/25326-professional-chopper.aspx). You can roll over a small image and a zoomed-in image appears. So in this view, you can see things like the cups/ounces markings on the side of the container.

  • By Jeff, January 5, 2010 @ 1:03 pm

    This edition of the ‘Kevies’ is my favorite ever!

  • By Kevin Ertell, January 11, 2010 @ 7:11 am

    Thanks everyone for the great site recommendations. There are some really interesting suggestions in this list and lots of examples of companies doing great things online.

Other Links to this Post

  1. 4 Reasons Not to Hide the Demo Button | A Random Jog — December 31, 2009 @ 10:18 am

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Retail: Shaken Not Stirred by Kevin Ertell


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