A leading researcher says online retail start-ups can foster interaction and build loyalty by adding an editorial element to their site, with the research based on emergence of interactive shopping portals such as Online Shopping USA.
Based in Sydney, Online Shopping USA was founded last year by James Harris and Ei Sabai Nyo with the aim of showcasing the best of US shopping to Australian shoppers.
The site, which was was set up for Australian consumers to take advantage of the strong dollar, features items hand-picked by four “editors” for their price and convenience.
Harris said the editors scour hundreds of stores to bring Australian shoppers the best bargains in the United States, making sure each product is more competitively priced than local retailers.
Harris says the US stores are chosen for their quality products, speedy delivery and efficient service, with taxes, delivery times, shipping costs and returns policies detailed on the site.
Harris says the site’s target market is female shoppers who, despite their eagerness to shop online, are often put off by unclear information about shipping costs and other issues.
Part of the site’s appeal is a blog where consumers are invited to contribute and respond as they seek out the best bargains and latest styles.
Harris says blogging brings a community element to the site, allowing the business to develop a two-way relationship with its audience.
“We’re trying to get involved with the blogging community by allowing them to build a presence on our site … we’re focused on building an audience and finding out what that audience wants,” he says.
“There is currently no advertising on the site – we’re purely focused on building that audience.”
Sam Yip, research manager at Telsyte, says start-ups can learn from Online Shopping USA, particularly its focus on creating a sense of community.
“The aggregate shopping concept has been around for a few years but Online Shopping USA has combined it with freight forwarding and an editorial element as well, which builds interaction and loyalty,” Yip says.
He says rather than simply selling to consumers, an editorial element can help businesses to make suggestions to consumers in a subtle way while helping businesses to better understand their audience.
According to Harris many e-commerce sites fail to foster a sense of community because they are solely focused on making a sale.
“I think it has been overlooked. Only now are retailers getting wise to the fact they do need to include an editorial element as part of their e-commerce stores,” he says.
“It’s not good enough to allow customers to simply buy online, you need that community and social media element.”