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Friday, June 06, 2008

A Wear-Dated Website Conversation With Integrity's John Simanowitz

The Wear-Dated website has launched. All of the planning and preparing and implementing is over.

Now, the real journey begins.

We're through with the traditional website approach of pushing Wear-Dated brand communications onto consumers. Instead, we start a brand new adventure where Wear-Dated starts participating in conversational marketing, offering authentic and relevant information to consumers who have been treated rather shabbily in this product category.

This is our opportunity to not wear the consumer out as she tries to bring beauty, comfort and durability to her home and her life. An opportunity to connect her with retailers who value her and her long term loyalty. An opportunity to help her care for and maintain her carpet investment over time.

It's also an opportunity to elevate the carpet category into a better realm, one that is about fashion, style and quality.

To highlight what makes the redesigned Wear-Dated site unusual, I share with you a two-part conversation with our web developer, Integrity Corporation's John Simanowitz.

CB: How is the new website different from the old website?
John: It's different from several perspectives.

From a brand perspective, the redesigned site accurately reflects Wear-Dated’s new “By the Foot” campaign. More than just new messaging and imagery, this campaign positions the Wear-Dated brand in a highly approachable and personal fashion. Our new site supports this effort aesthetically and functionally.

From a Search Engine Optimization perspective, it is greatly improved. For maximum effectiveness, you need for search engines to “see everything.” That means that you can't hide “text as images,” you need to make sure that content is relevant, and if you have anything that you want search engines to find -like products and retailers- you have to make that easy for web crawlers to find.

With the exception of one homepage graphic, the site intentionally uses no Flash. And, the new system dynamically generates a unique page for each carpet and retailer – allowing search engines to find and link to core content with ease.

From the perspective of improved usability, we have greatly enhanced the user experience, revising navigation and functionality by focusing on the visitor's perspective (e.g., with the Sales Assistant, Featured Carpets, Carpet Catalog Search, New Site Search, etc). You'll notice real carpet images now rather than simulated carpet in the Room Viewer. And, the Retailer Locator has improved map functionality to make it even easier for visitors to find dealers near them.

We added advanced search functionality so all content types are now internally searchable. Advanced results show a thumbnail of each result and offer additional resources. The site includes a very flexible Newsroom so Wear-Dated has near limitless expansion possibilities, as well as the ability to conduct eNewsletter campaigns and contests to engage visitors and bring the product category to life!

Finally, the site offers Comment and Ranking for both Carpet and Retailers. That gives each the opportunity to stand above the rest.

CB: Why are these differences important? Why should anyone care?
John: In today's world of online consumer expectation, these differences are a big deal. Websites like Google and Amazon have forever changed buyer behavior. When faced with a large or complex buying decision, customers will routinely conduct online research to determine exactly what they need, how much is fair to pay and from whom they should get it. The more complicated the category, the more important it is to offer a robust online experience.

Carpet is a complicated category. So, for customers wanting to find carpet -given how many choices are out there- how can anyone make a confident decision? That's where Wear-Dated’s online tools help to make this selection easier. Visitors can learn all there is to know about how carpet is made, tested and categorized. They can find carpet by color, style or use (i.e.: what carpet is best for Kids?). And, if they still aren't sure, they can see which carpets other people think are best and why.

They can also get maximum detailed information for any carpet on the website (available colors, durability rank, etc.), and see the carpet in a series of rooms to help with the selection process.

Then, there's the process of finding a retailer who is convenient and trustworthy.

The new Wear-Dated.com elevates the retailer “heroes of the industry” by empowering customers to document their experiences online as comments and ranking. All feedback is closely monitored so retailers have the opportunity to turn any issues into further relationship building interactions, thereby creating further positive feedback. Word of mouth is any retailer's most powerful marketing tool – Wear-Dated is leveraging this principle on an international scale.

Wear-Dated also has the ability to feature promotions going on… say… at an Abbey Store, a Flooring America, a Karastan dealer. This provides even more incentive for a potential customer to take action.

Combined, these customer centric features and content make the Wear-Dated site a site worth spending time on, exploring, and returning to. Should a site user wish to share the word, we even added social bookmarking tools to make that easy as well.

In part 2, John explains what role the web plays for corporations, and what is so important about social functionality. Please stay tuned!

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Reminder: Please, no self-promotional or SPAM comments. Don't bother if you're simply trying to build inauthentic link juice. Finally, don't be anonymous: it's too hard to have a conversation. Thanks, CB

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