Buy.com Grows Up in a Hurry1 Mar, 2009 By: Jacqueline Renfrow Response
The online retail superstore now offers more than 5 million products, and Jeff Wisot, vice president of marketing, says expanding use of direct response methods continues to spur exponential growth.
The episodes of BuyTV are not as hard of a sell as an infomercial: the shows aim to educate rather than push a sale (although an 800 number is posted on the television version). However, the conversion rate of a product with a video on Buy.com is three to seven times higher than one without a video.
Another attribute of the site that sets Buy.com apart from the competition is the price engine. More than 1.3 million products on the site are matched up so that when a customer visits a product page, he or she can also see competitors' prices. A customer can even click on a link and go to the competitors' Web sites.
Buy.com partners with 1,000 "Marketplace" sellers. These are other companies that have made a deal with Buy.com so that if a customer clicks on the buy button on the Buy.com site, Buy.com will have the competitor ship the product to the customer using the information already stored in the retailer's database. Meaning, a customer does not have to jump to the competitor's Web page, fill out more personal information, and give another credit card, because Buy.com already has this information.
This saves the customer time and is a better protection of privacy. "If you buy from Marketplace, you won't be marketed to, and they won't have your credit card info," says Wisot. "We don't share this personal information. This way, customers are more in control of their information. With us, customers have already picked their preferences and how often and through what channels they want to be contacted."
Uniquely, on each product page Buy.com also offers an additional list of competitors' prices under "also available from these other merchants." Although these competitors have not made marketing deals with Buy.com, the company wants to give customers all available options. "We may lose a sale, but people will trust us and will come back to the site," adds Wisot.
Wisot credits Buy.com customers with the creation of the price engine. This request, as with many others, came through the site's customer suggestion box. Wisot and his team spend hours a day looking through customer suggestions and page analytics to try and optimize the consumer experience. "We spend hours every day looking at data and the spikes show us what's hot," he contends.
Finally, price pays a large factor in Buy.com's success. "We have only 135 employees, we're pretty lean," says Wisot. "But we don't own a single product. We're a virtual model with more than 30 distributors." Buy.com sees this as the greenest way for a consumer to buy a product because it saves a customer from driving to a store, where a product has already been shipped several times from the warehouse to a storefront. In addition to being a green approach, the virtual store keeps prices low. Since brick-and-mortar stores buy and stock products, it can be harder to drop prices for their customers. But Buy.com does not keep any inventory, so a sale or price reduction is possible at any point.
For Buy.com, the goal is to give consumers as much information as possible. The consumer is armed with all the product research on one page, so that once a decision is made, the checkout page is just a click away. From videos and product reviews to top 10 listings, the experience is meant to be enjoyable and encourage weekly, if not daily, site visits and continuity. "We have movie buffs that go to this site weekly to decide what to watch for the weekend, whether it be to buy or just rent on Netflix," says Wisot of the top 10 DVDs listing. Other weekly top 10s that get a lot of repeat viewers include the book listings and the video gaming page.
"We have a lot of the same people come and look at the same category each week," Wisot says. What gets posted on the top 10 is determined by analyzing customer searches, anticipated releases or top sellers. The site even has a page called "What's Shakin'," a daily listing of who is buying what. It gives exact numbers of how many of a particular product was bought "today" and "yesterday." "It can happen so fast, the change," says Wisot. "A book people recommend or is written about by a reporter — it's all viral."