A few sites worth watching
There are so many elements that go into making a website great- but at its core, it’s always about the customer experience. A customer can easily find what they are looking for, can discover new and interesting things, and enjoy doing it enough to want to come back. These are sites that have intuitive navigation, a great variety of product and value-add content or services. Some of these are classics that continue to evolve- others are the market leaders and innovators that are breaking the mold with product and/or service. For a transformative view on how to make a customer experience great, take a look at Customers Included, the book by Mark Hurst and Phil Terry, and Reengineering Retail: The Future of Selling in a Post-Digital World by Doug Stephens.
One thing is clear as retail evolves: As choice becomes increasingly over-abundant, consumers wiser and less brand-loyal, the only way a brand will grow and thrive is to deliver some kind of intrinsic and lasting ‘value’- whether that’s in the brand values– what you stand for, the product, the experience, or the service. No one will win on price- except Walmart and Amazon. Those who excel will need to stand for at least a few of these core values.
Below, a few sites worth watching (& shopping).
Everlane: Great, simple style with a ‘radical transparency’ philosophy. They pride themselves on partnering with the best, ethical factories around the world, and using fine materials to create great basics. They share the supply chain and costs behind their production process, and every product on the site has a link with details on the factory in which it was produced. They’re also experimenting, now with retail- they’ve just opened their first shop in NYC SOHO, and they have a retail experimental lab in San Francisco’s Mission District.
Net-a-Porter: Inspirational, aspirational and fashion forward, though on the pricey side- you’ll find countless top fashion brands you love, and new ones to discover. Even if it’s over-budget, it’s great to get a sense of what’s new & on trend. They have a point of view- the Edit, which is a Vogue-like online magazine, with video, editorial and more.
Nordstrom: In a time where ‘great department store’ has become an oxymoron, Nordstrom continues to innovate, both with the site, and with its in-store experiences. They have order online/pick up in store, and are experimenting with a new format store that doesn’t stock merchandise, but focuses on personal shopping services. The site is perfect when you need a shopping fix from a few different brands, or just the basics from a favorite brand. They make returns easy- which is what they’re famous for, and shipping is free. The site itself makes shopping easy, with advanced filtering and a robust search. It is still a go-to.
Modcloth: Retro chic attitude with plenty of modern looks, affordable, and size range friendly, offering a range from XXS to 4X. The models, as my daughters mentioned, look like real people, and appear genuinely happy, which makes the site feel a bit friendlier than the typical retailer. They also use models in a range of sizes, so that it’s not all one generic look. They have user-generated content with their Style Gallery, where shoppers can submit images wearing the product, and these are displayed on the applicable product page- giving a shopper context for how a product looks on different body types, environments, etc.
Universal Standard is a true game changer- a relative newcomer to the world of fashion and denim, and serving sizes 10-28, a range which increasingly represents our population, but is still shockingly under-served by true fashion brands. They have a unique brand philosophy: “Universal Fit Liberty”: go up or down in size, and they’ll replace your clothes for free, within a year. An excerpt from their brand story:
“We’re here to break the plus-size fashion industry. We will accomplish this by making beautiful, quality, modern, elevated essentials for women size 10-28. We will tear down existing barriers by doing this at democratic prices, and by turning away from fast fashion and all of its waste, inhumanity, and disastrous impact on the environment. We will use Universal Fit Liberty to shut down the size-bully living in the head of every woman who doesn’t see her true self in the mirror by giving her the leeway to change her body without penalty to her style, or her wallet.”
This idea of Universal Fit Liberty is empowering and beautiful. It’s a great direction to see, in a much needed area of the market. Plus size fashion is still an oxymoron in much of the fashion world- try finding a pair of jeans over a size 34 in any top denim brand. It’s almost impossible, still. This is an excellent breakthrough.
AmazonSmile If you are amongst the 64% of Americans shopping with Amazon, you must, must, must save this link and shop only through it (vs. amazon.com). Every time you use the link- Amazon contributes .5% of your purchase amount to support charitable causes.Every item on amazon is available for the same price on AmazonSmile. It is a no-brainer.
Puravida makes string bracelets that support artisans all over the world. They have partnered with over 150 charities all over the world, and have donated 1,500,000 to causes they believe in. These are great, giftable items with heart.
Between Wayfair, All Modern, and Houzz, you’ll find everything you need for your home, from furniture to bedding, wall clocks and throw pillows. You’ll also find lots of inspiration. Houzz is especially good for generating ideas for rooms & design, and has a gallery of images to browse by room, decorating guides, and more. Wayfair and All Modern are best when you know what you need & want to find it at a reasonable price.
Goodreads is a fun site if you love to read. There’s a social aspect to it- you can add or follow friends to see what they’re reading and how they’re rating their books. You can browse books by rating, by category, or browse award winners. And you can keep track of all the books you want to read, have finished reading (with your ratings), and are in the midst of reading within your virtual bookshelves. One of my favorite features is the ability to browse books my friends have read and liked. I have a few book friends who’s recommendations I always like- so when I need a new book, I’ll often start there, and add to my ‘want to read’ list. The Book Challenge is a fun way to set a goal for yourself and track your progress. Every time you log in, Goodreads will tell you how you’re tracking to your goal. This can be very motivating, as when in March of last year, it told me I was tracking 20% behind on my goal, and now- very satisfying, when I see that I’m 148% to goal for the year.
By far, my favorite grocery delivery site is Fresh Direct. Full disclosure, this could easily be bumped by Whole Foods, if I had only delivery available in my area. Fresh Direct has good prepared foods, good produce, and the least amount of packaging waste that I’ve seen from others. My only complaint is that it is hard to get a delivery time on the weekend without remembering to book it 4 days in advance, which defeats the purpose of solving the problem when you realize you won’t have time to shop & need to schedule a delivery.
These are just a few favorites- would love to hear yours. I’m always on the lookout for new retail concepts and breakthroughs from tried & true brands.