How to keep online shoppers engaged with a retail site

May 22, 2013 10:44 AM

Call it the blessing of the “sticky” site: an e-commerce destination so appealing that consumers, on average, want to spend an hour there per visit, playing around with products and helping you decide what to sell. 

That’s where finds itself, says founder and president Sarah McIlroy. She will talk about how the seller of girls clothes keeps its customers engaged during a session at the Internet Retailer Conference & Exhibition 2013 entitled “Beyond Click, Search and Buy.” IRCE, the world’s largest e-commerce trade show, takes place June 4-7 in Chicago.

Web merchants face challenges keeping any consumer interested; the difficulties can seem to double when it comes to younger shoppers who often have short attention spans. “The key challenge that online retailers will face as the younger generation matures is how to keep them engaged with their brand and on their web site,” she says. “For us, it was about giving the girls a voice and then actively listening to that voice.”

Among the ways FashionPlaytes does that is through its Design Studio, where girls can design clothing, create and share apparel collections, and purchase their own creations. The e-retailer—No. 935 in Internet Retailer’s Second 500 Guide (a 2013 edition is forthcoming)—also relies on crowdsourcing, or fishing for ideas from consumers on the web. For instance, FashionPlaytes uses a “Trend Alert” section on its site that asks visitors what’s trendy in their schools. The apparel seller also encourages shoppers to vote on which new clothing items it should offer in the future. 

All that leads to increased revenue. “We’ve found that anytime we present a new line or product that the girls have helped design or inspired, it translates into higher sales,” she says. FashionPlaytes’ revenue increased about 23% year over year in 2012, to an Internet Retailer-estimated $2.18 million, according to data in the Second 500.

The e-retailer does all those things not only to boost sales and loyalty now, but with an eye toward the e-retail future, McIlroy says. After all, today’s preteens will grow up—as parents might say—in the blink of an eye.

“When this community of girls transitions from being a strong influencer of a family’s purchase decisions, to making these decisions on her own, and then becoming the primary shopper for her own family, she is going to demand more from her e-commerce partners than a simple ‘point-and-click’ experience,” she says. “We’re dealing with digital natives when it comes to Gen Z girls, so their tolerance for poor user experience is much lower than those of us who first experienced e-commerce as an adult.”

Internet Retailer’s editors asked McIlroy to speak because, as founder and president of FashionPlaytes Inc., she and her employees have fused content, commerce and community.  Previously, she worked as a global marketing and business development executive for gaming industry leaders including Atari, Hasbro and Midway Amusement Games. She also has worked for several companies on branding, product design and development, and merchandising strategies.






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