General Merchandise: L.L. Bean and Miles Kimball

SILVER: Ecommerce Channel

The venerable L.L. Bean has been known as a customer-service giant for nearly 100 years, and it effectively conveys that message online, thanks to several 2010 site improvements. It introduced guided navigation to give customers more control of the browsing experience, added more prominent links to customer service, including live help, and increased the use of customer feedback to help with the buying decision.

WHY IT WON A SILVER AWARD: The photographs are high quality and enhance the presentation, said one judge. “They’ve done a good job with the alternative views and the lifestyle shots that are scattered throughout,” the panelist said. “The photography aspect of the creative is well done.” handles its cross-selling and upselling efforts on the page and in the cart very well. Product recommendations are logical, reflecting good technology to ensure a great customer experience noted one judge. Another pointed out that although Bean wasn’t the first one to do it, the site skillfully executes the “complete the look” function.

The merchant is also embracing and promoting social media. “They do a nice job with their Facebook page,” a judge said. “They also are very good at balancing their social media efforts. It’s not overkill, but it is listed.”

WHY IT DID NOT WIN A GOLD AWARD: The site could be more user friendly, and the presentation needs some tweaking. While the top-level navigation is fine, one judge said, “as you drill down, things start to crumble. The refinements are solid, but the ways in which they work seem to be inconsistent.” — TP

SILVER: Ecommerce Channel caters to an older audience, and it took that into consideration when it made enhancements to its website in 2010. That contributed to a double-digit, year-over-year rise in traffic for the gifts merchant, as well as increased website conversion rates and a much improved user experience.

WHY IT WON A SILVER AWARD: has a powerful home page with lots of interesting offers and features. The header, with multiple tabs, might be a bit “overtabbed,” according to one judge, but it certainly engages users to click through.

Miles Kimball’s 800-number was readily available, since many of its customer may still prefer the phone rather than ordering online. “The site has definitely improved over the years,” a judge said. “It is easy to page through the product categories, shop and check out.”

Judges also gave Miles Kimball credit for implementing customer testimonials. The added benefit of the ratings helps the consumer in the decision-making process.

WHY IT DID NOT WIN A GOLD AWARD: While the site did offer users the ability to see more detail, it did not provide alternative views. And the product recommendations “were at the bottom of the page, and one would never get there unless you paged down,” a judge said. “Moving them to the right would be better.” — TP

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