Over the past year we have seen a huge spike in new shopping portals and comparison-shopping engines. Each offers a different idea on how to make online shopping more interactive and intriguing for the consumer. From sharing interactive wish lists with friends to comparison shopping with coupons and even building entire communities of like-minded consumers, there is seemingly no end to the options.
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For e-tailers, this means you have more choices when it comes to affiliate programs and how your products and brand are presented to online buyers. For instance, one popular way to boost sales is to use affiliate programs in which you pay a small commission on sales when a third-party sends consumers to your page and they make a purchase. And, in terms of increased exposure, listing on many of these social shopping sites and specialized search engines is either free or very affordable for the small Web shop owner, and often can be done by completing a few simple steps.
iStorez Offers Shoppers Plenty of Features
Given our coverage of this trend (see related articles box), we thought we'd seen it all, and then comes along iStorez.com. This new site provides consumers with an online experience that mirrors shopping at a mall, with the chance to window shop, discover hot trends and hunt for bargains.
Anand Jagannathan, CEO of Kriyari, the company that owns the site, said that iStorez stands out from other shopping portals because it lets browsers see different storefronts from the user interface.
Once a consumer registers on the site, he or she can go beyond basic searching and create a personal shopping mall and file it under a "My Mall" heading. This lets shoppers add their favorite stores to a quick access list that can be published, with a unique URL, on their own Web spaces. Shoppers can also browse storefronts that have been tagged by other users to keep lists of storefronts of interest, to find storefronts that other consumers find interesting, and also to share lists with other members. IStorez also offers its shoppers a refined search feature that drills down into sub categories.
What's In It for Merchants?
While price comparison engines work well for consumer electronics, Jagannathan says that the iStorez approach is better for those merchants offering so-called "soft goods," such as apparel. Shopping comparison engines generally work best when a consumer has already decided on a product and is ready to find it at the best price online. By using storefronts that promote your store, brand and specials, Jagannathan said you get the promotional information to consumers at just the right time; when they are browsing to buy soft goods.
|Spring Fling: Create customized storefronts from e-mail campaigns.
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For example, shoppers who are getting their wardrobe ready for Spring may search iStorez for "Spring Fashions" and have access to multiple storefronts, all focused on presenting new spring fashions, accessories and similar items. Additionally, consumers will have immediate access to spring fashion deals and related promotions and they can always create their own personal profile to be notified of new arrivals or deals matching this search criteria.
Behind the scenes is where this shopping portal really gets interesting. What iStorez is doing is taking the current seasonal promotions, products and deals from the merchant's e-mail newsletters to organize and collect the products and present the information as individual, interactive storefronts that the consumer can browse. Using automated engines, a merchant's newsletter is scanned for keywords, promotions and product links. So, basically, the information and new products that you are already presenting to consumers is fed to iStorez which then creates create custom storefronts highlighting these new offers and products.
Storefronts on iStorez are updated frequently so shoppers are always viewing fresh displays and current promotions. Merchants are also not limited to a single store interface either. You can have 10 different storefronts on iStorez at any one time, each highlighting different products and promotions to best match the consumer's search criteria. When a sale is made through iStorez, the shopping site receives a commission, either by way of an existing affiliate program or a custom program and rate for merchants not already using affiliate networking.
Setting Up an iStorez Storefront
IStorez, despite displaying a beta tag on the logo, is a fully functional Web site that is going into its third month since launch. Jagannathan said that it is a fully live site but there may be some small upcoming interface changes as they garner feedback from both shoppers and their merchants.
Merchants interested in iStorez' shopping mall storefront approach may find that if they use an affiliate network, such as Commission Junction for example, they may already have storefronts showing on the iStorez Web site. For newer merchants or those not already using affiliate networks, you can provide iStorez with details about your store and provide them with access to your e-mail newsletters to stack your storefronts. For those without a newsletter the iStorez program can still provide an interface to upload a storefront, on a commission basis. Merchants can contact iStorez through its Web site to find out more about turning their e-mail campaigns into attractive and timely storefronts.
Vangie Beal is a seasoned eBay seller, frequent contributor to ECommerce-Guide.com and managing editor of Webopedia.com.
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