Sites that Bring Smiles to Gift Givers and Recipients
From fine jewelry to floral bouquets to goofy T–shirts, gifts are the non–essential purchases that provide big returns on shopper investment by bringing a smile to the recipient's face. This year's category winners in Flowers/Gifts/Jewelry strive to make the experience of giving a good one for the giver as well as for the gifted, with web sites that make online purchasing easy, aesthetically pleasing and entertaining.
Diamond engagement ring specialist BlueNile.com, for example, has sharpened up its industry–leading diamond search with a new feature that guides customers to more than 150 engagement ring settings grouped by themed collection, to help them more quickly find particular styles. Easy is also the operative word at online jeweler Goldspeed.com, which offers many sorting methods to speed shoppers toward a choice, and also features top–quality product photos to help customers decide.
"We only use photographers who specialize in jewelry. They know what lighting to use and what angles to shoot from to give customers the best image," says Goldspeed.com chief executive officer Neil Kugelman.
Shoppers out to warm the heart of a collector of premium timepieces—or intent on rewarding themselves—will find a wealth of selection as well as online tools to help them choose at JTV.com, an offshoot of shopping channel Jewelry Television. The site builds on the TV presence with extra content and features geared toward the watch aficionado, with functionality that lets them speedily browse the entire assortment of high–end watches.
Online florist OrganicBouquet.com plays to the societal shift toward "green" products with fresh flowers, fruit and wine that have been produced organically and without pesticides. And it's honed in on its target audience with a marketing plan that includes the media and venues they are likely to use and visit—blogs and social networking sites such as Gaia, MySpace and Facebook.
Also capitalizing on community is gift site ThinkGeek.com, with a blog and a feature that lets shoppers upload photos of themselves using ThinkGeek products.
Through extended selection, lavish photos and content, and tapping into the increasingly important social component of online retailing, this year's gift sites distinguish themselves by delivering the complete package.
Serving a retail niche based on social consciousness is a natural challenge on the Internet, where Organic Bouquet Inc. is building on the web's role as a merchandising and communications platform to reach fans of its organic and fair–trade products.
"The Internet enables us to develop and execute an in–depth content strategy that informs and educates our customers about social and environmental issues, and helps them understand the story behind our products," says president Claudio Miranda. "Green businesses can engage in active and prolonged dialogue with audiences and can leverage their web site and social media to serve rich and engaging content."
A visitor to OrganicBouquet.com is likely to be drawn in at first by the site's attractive images that display flowers and other gifts like fruit and wine developed organically without unnatural materials like chemical pesticides.
"OrganicBouquet.com is a great gift site," says Danielle Savin, former head of e–commerce at Frederick's of Hollywood and now a vice president and retail specialist at online retailing consultants FitForCommerce. "The imagery is excellent, and the item content is rich and doesn't leave the customer guessing as to what she is purchasing. And OrganicBouquet gives the customer the ability to order now and deliver later, a great feature for a gift site."
Organic Bouquet defines its retailing style as eco–elegance, but it also strives to engage the passions of its customers for sharing information on environmentally friendly products as well as on goods produced under fair–trade guidelines. Fair–trade is designed to provide fair compensation to farmers and artisans.
The retailer also produces online magazine Organic Style, with topics ranging from "green" cities to organic food recipes to eco–friendly ways to travel through Europe. The magazine also links to OrganicStyle.com, where Miranda is expanding his eco–friendly reach with merchandise lines in home furnishings, baby products and pet supplies.
Organic Bouquet will continue developing its product lines and building exposure through blogs and social networks including Gaia, MySpace and Facebook. "We're aggressively ramping up our social media," Miranda says.