Online Retailers Trying Out Blogs

The New York Times has an article about some online retailers that are starting to use blogs to promote their products. The blogs offer merchants a way to feature specific items or drive traffic to the web storefront. The blogs mentioned in the article include Bluefly.com's Flypaper blog about fashion at flypaper.bluefly.com; the eHobbies.com's blog about hobbies; and three blogs from jewelry retailer Ice.com: JustAskLeslie.com, SparkleLiketheStars.com and Blog.ice.com. The Times article indicates that some of the merchants are still having an internal debate about whether to provide links to their blogs on the homepage of their storefront:
More importantly, Mr. Cassar said, sites must figure out how to keep customers from straying from the store to the blog without ever returning to shop. Because typical blogs feature links to articles elsewhere on the Web, they can represent a one-way ticket away from the site.

Such is the dilemma faced by executives of Ice.com, an online jeweler based in Montreal. Ice.com has created three blogs in the last six months: a celebrity jewelry site (SparkleLikeTheStars.com), a question-and-answer site (JustAskLeslie.com) and a company news site (blog.ice.com).

Shmuel Gniwisch, Ice.com's chief executive, said the company was "having an internal struggle" about whether to put links to its blogs on Ice.com itself. Currently, people reach them through search engines and links from other blogs.

"Our blog people want the links on our site, but our brand people say it'll take people off the site," Mr. Gniwisch said. "We'll probably test it and see what it does."
Meanwhile, eHobbies.com had no problem linking their blog off their ehobbies.com homepage:
Mr. Greenberg said the blog allowed eHobbies to project the homespun image that sometimes eluded even small companies like his, which has only 25 employees. "It lets us pull back the curtain and show how we're a company of hobbyists who love participating in the things they're buyers for," he said. "It humanizes us."

In addition to featuring the link to the blog at the top of the eHobbies home page, the company will soon begin promoting the blog in e-mail messages to customers, and hiding coupon codes in the blog to give people incentives to visit, Mr. Greenberg said.
The eHobbies.com strategy is probably the better one. Many online shoppers now have broadband and finding other blogs, websites and online stores is quick and easy so trying to prevent them from doing so is probably impossible. Studies have also shown that people like to window shop online so they are going to click around and check out other blogs and stores anyway. Corante.com said the retailers mentioned in the Times article are trying to build a blog audience and/or generate a buzz about a specific item:
What's interesting is that some of these companies are actively promoting the blogs in their correspondence with customers and even hiding coupon codes in their blogs to give people an incentive to visit. These online retailers are obviously hoping that a huge blog audience will translate into additional sales, or at least, additional buzz around certain products.

Posted on July 7, 2005

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