Thanking ‘You’ For the Future
By now, we all know that Time magazine selected “You” as the person of the year in 2006. Not a political leader, entrepreneur or philanthropist, but You.
The “we” at hand here is the Wikipedia-reading, YouTube-watching, social networking, Amazon.com shopping-types who are making a home in a new online world. The Web 2.0 world.
Web 2.0 is a phrase that refers to the second generation of Internet-based services such as blogs, podcasts and social software and community sites that emphasize online collaboration and sharing among users. The services conducted here in the past year are mind-blowing.
For example, we’ve swapped unwanted holiday gifts on Swapthing.com. Many of us even bought imaginary American Apparel shirts with real money for their animated character, or avatar, in the virtual Second Life gaming world.
These bold steps indicate that online advancements show no sign of slowing, especially as sales across this channel grow at a much faster rate than overall retail sales.
During the Cowen and Co. Fifth Annual Consumer Conference, held in New York City last month, a session called “A Report Card on Online Retail: The Current State & Future Expectations” explored what’s expected to be hot soon in the e- commerce world. Pat Connolly, executive VP and CMO of Williams-Sonoma Inc., confirmed that the growing influence of Web 2.0 will enhance and change the online shopping experience for the better.
“It’s no longer going to be about the products, but rather more about the experience online,” he said. “Through Web 2.0, you’ll go through a checkout in two screens instead of six. Everything is going to become much easier for shoppers.”
And as technology prompts this change, retailers will take action. Companies will also cash in on customization, or sites that allow shoppers to personalize products, such as sports jerseys or the interior design of cars. Reebok is one company homing in on the trend.
“Reebok’s site allows shoppers to make sneakers as beautiful or as ugly as they want,” Rob Schmults, VP, sporting goods business management, GSI Commerce, said at the conference. “The idea of a consumer creating something completely unique for themselves is very powerful.
”Sites such as Like.com, a visual search engine, are also bound to change the way we shop.
Like.com—which focuses on handbags, jewelry, shoes and watches—allows users to search through pictures from leading brands to find desired, yet affordable, merchandise. For example, shoppers can search for earrings similar to Angelina Jolie’s at last month’s Golden Globe Awards, or for the leopard- print stilettos Drew Barrymore wore at a news conference this past summer in Las Vegas.
Like.com enables shoppers to search for items based on celebrities, trends, category, color and price range. Shoppers can even draw a box around an area of the picture (like the bottom of a dangling earring or the strap of a bag) to specify their search.
As retailers cash in on the growing presence of Web 2.0 and all that it has to offer, they continue to look ahead.
“In four to five years, we’re going to look back at the Web sites we have today and consider them rudimentary,” Connolly said.
And we’ll all have “You” to thank.
Wal-Mart to Focus on Expanding Seiyu
New York City, Wal-Mart Stores is open to acquisition opportunities in Japan, but the retailer is more focused on expanding business at its 53%-owned Seiyu chain, according to a report by Reuters. Shares of Seiyu jumped Monday after Wal-Mart vice chairman Michael Duke told the Nikkei business daily that the company might look for more acquisition opportunities in Japan.
The paper reported that Duke welcomed planned changes in corporate laws in May that will enable foreign companies to buy Japanese firms through share swaps.
Wal-Mart last year tried to invest in superstore operator Daiei Inc., aiming to boost its presence in the country, but it lost the chance to Aeon Co., Japan’s second-biggest retail group.
Wal-Mart entered the Japanese market in 2002 by taking a small stake in Seiyu. It has since invested more than $1 billion in the chain, but has yet to return the retailer to profitability.
Wal-Mart spokeswoman Amy Wyatt said Wal-Mart’s focus in Japan is on Seiyu.
“It’s a very sizable business today, so we still think that there are a lot of growth opportunities in the existing business,” she said.
In terms of acquisitions, she said: “I wouldn’t go as far as to say we’re shopping for them.”