Cover Story: Finding the Perfect Balance
More Internet Video Ahead
The integration of video "isn't being done a lot across the Internet," observes Burke. "But in the next two to five years, product shots on e-commerce sites will turn into product videos. There's going to be a lot more video, and not just in the text form that we have been limited to on the Internet today. Gaiam is leading the charge on this."
Gaiam's site has a customer-focused category structure. Since the company knows its top-rated product category gets clicked frequently, according to Burke, this category is promoted heavily on the site.
The articles and information on the community site are tightly integrated throughout the e-commerce site as well, which is another way of keeping customers at the forefront of its design. "I very rarely see this type of integration on e-commerce sites," Burke says. "A lot of merchants really haven't grasped the concept of community like Gaiam has."
Many people use a cataloger's e-commerce site as an order-taking tool. But Burke says, "Gaiam went in the completely opposite direction from a strategy perspective and created an experience for the customer that supports all elements of that customer."
Offering multiple payment options such as PayPal and Bill Me Later also illustrates Gaiam's focus on the customer, according to Burke. Gaiam does things like calculating tax and shipping at the shopping cart, so customers know exactly what their totals will be instead of having to go to the fourth page of checkout to find out.
"This is something that's relatively simple to do," Burke says, "but many sites don't do it."
Commitment to Mission
Maximizing your use of social sites is one thing. Being smart with search term choices is another. Succeeding with a highly profitable affiliate marketing program is still another. And gaining a loyal following for an information subdomain is yet another. But integrating these channels requires "a lot of work," Marshall says.