E-Commerce Link: Humanizing the Web
3. Help people connect with each other using blogs, wikis, forums, chat rooms and other social-networking platforms. By placing your brand firmly within the Web 2.0 conversation, you'll become part of the word-of-mouth network-and attract new customers.
Whether you facilitate connections by hosting your own forums or by joining existing social-networking sites such as MySpace will depend on your customers. What kind of communication would benefit them, and are they already congregating somewhere online? It's key to let their behavior dictate the format your community efforts take; if you set up a bulletin board but your core customers prefer Facebook, you may waste resources building a virtual ghost town.
The Eastwood Co., a multichannel marketer of automotive tools and supplies, has created effective community features that cater to its core audience. Forums hosted on its site give auto enthusiasts a place to connect, while a blog chronicling restoration of a classic car provides a venue for sharing expertise and advice.
The Ultimate Goal
By using these three techniques to humanize the Web, online merchants improve the ability of shoppers to find the best product for their specific wants and needs. This is the definition of goal-oriented shopping.
User-contributed content and an emphasis on service put power in the hands of consumers. By reassuring them about common concerns, such as delivery and security, and providing credible content from both internal experts as well as other customers, shoppers can better find their way to relevant products and categories.
Jewelry retailer Helzberg Diamonds puts many of these best practices to work on its site. In addition to providing expert guidance in the form of a "Learning Guide" for the daunting task of selecting the right fine jewelry, it includes a category called "Our customers have spoken" that highlights top-rated items and solicits customer input on the cover of its printed catalog.