Tuesday, December 13th, 2011
2011 was a big year for digital commerce. At Fluid we saw leading brands fight back to own the innovation that start-ups owned in 2010. We saw digital shopping finally and fully break beyond the boundaries of ecommerce sites. And we saw brand and commerce mix and mingle in matches that were incredibly exciting – products told stories and stories sold products.
At years end, Fluid celebrates ten digital retailers that took bold action in 2011 – some are our clients, some are not. The order is purposeful. We count down to the brand actions we see as boldest. The gauntlet for 2012 has officially been thrown. Fun.
Think there’s a bold action that should to be on this list? Send it on.
Bold Action #10 NetFlix: Facilitate visual navigation just for kids
In November Netflix revised their Wii app to include a “Just for Kids” section, navigitable by cartoon and kid characters. The under-12s will never be computer-centric – design is changing accordingly. In fact independent of age, design for tablets and touch-screens began to heavily drive web design in 2011, instead of vice versa.
Bold Action #9 AmEx: Bolster small businesses with their own Saturday
AmEx isn’t a digital retailer but in a year of bold moves by payment systems (Paypal’s Facebook app, Square’s rise, etc.) they sparked digital commerce success. Lodged between Black Friday and CyberMonday, Small Business Saturday drove social traction, offline sales and fueled Davids over Goliaths. Another brand focused on small business buying, Etsy, saw 80% YOY CyberMonday sales growth.
Bold Action #8 Coach: Kick the purchase funnel to the curb
Rich, bold imagery conveys the sensory elements of Coach products in the magazine style format of their ecommerce site. It gets most interesting though (to us) when you go to buy. Gone are the traditional .pdp pages – product details and Add to Cart are treated in a quick view. And checking out is no longer a purchase funnel, it’s done all on one page.
Bold Action #7 JCPenney: Incubate companies to target market opportunity
JCPenney had proof of market opportunity in two areas: 1. Men’s style and 2. Gifts. Recognizing the strengths (and constraints) of the JCPenney brand they served as their own VC funder and incubated two new digital only ventures. Partnering with Hearst Magazines, CLAD and Gifting Grace were welcomed into the world this Fall.
Bold Action #6 ASOS: Trust a marketplace will amplify – not compete
ASOS is the UK’s largest independent online fashion retailer, offering over 850 brands and their own ASOS label. This year ASOS opened Marketplace which allows anyone, anywhere to sell fashion to anyone, anywhere. Indie labels, emerging designers, vintage boutiques and clothes hounds are encouraged to apply for a boutique. ASOS positions themselves as celebrators of fashion and takes a percent of sales.
Bold Action #5 Reebok: Showcase custom shoes for on-demand inventory
Customers love custom shoes. Reebok saw success grow and decided to give custom shoes their own shop. In 2011 it excelled. It’s fueled by attribution to the custom creators, design voyeurism and social sharing – social that also serves as ratings and reviews. Custom options permeate their traditional inventory for a persuasive cross-sell.
Bold Action #4 eBay: Declare ecommerce is dead and buried
John Donohue, CEO of EBay, declared the concept of ecommerce dead and buried. Consumers think shopping, not device. “Over the next 12-24 months we’re going to see an explosion of experimentation, and no one knows what’s going to take off and what’s not.” Right now it’s mobile – U.S. eBay mobile shoppers spent 2.5x more on CyberMonday than in 2010. PayPal Mobile saw a 552% YOY increase in global mobile payment volume for the same day.
Bold Action #3 Apple: Overtly and publicly celebrate the life of Steve Jobs On Oct. 4th Apple launched the iPhone 4S, on Oct. 5th Apple announced that Steve Jobs had died. Defying the speculation for years that Apple stock would drop upon his death, Apple owned the celebration of his life outright. The homepage of the Apple store honored him for days and Apple stores became pilgrimage sites of emotional expression. Consumers responded with an unprecedented outpouring.
Bold Action #2 Patagonia: Declare “Don’t Buy” on the years’ biggest shopping day
Retailers wait all year for Thanksgiving weekend and this year Black Friday and CyberMonday did not disappoint. In the flurry of price drops, limited editions and 4am store openings, Patagonia took a bold stand. A full page ad in the NYTimes and their home page declared “Don’t Buy This Jacket.” A stand for their Common Threads Initiative, the buzz was widespread and polarized.
Bold Action #1 Amazon: Reward consumers for price comparing
Yes people research online and buy in-store. Amazon is aggressively encouraging people to research in-store and buy online. This shift in behavior is significant for digital (and is happening independent of Amazon). Amazon’s advantages? Prices that benefit from large inventory and the lack of online sales tax. The controversy around their Dec. 10th promotion is likely to bootstrap mobile buying – and expedite the sales tax conversation.