June 5, 2000
Women don't buy brands, says consultant Faith Popcorn. Instead, they join brands as if they were churches, neighborhood groups or the PTA. One result is the new plethora of on-line "communities" begging to be joined.
Take Women.com, a site where women can surf in for advice on cars, careers, fitness or travel; search out an estrogen-drenched weekend movie; or find a new recipe. Content, not shopping, is the main draw. (But is shopping available? Hoo, boy!)
One measure of the site's power is its message boards, provided in partnership with an array of women's magazines that include Redbook and Cosmopolitan. Lured in by the exhortation to "find new friends," women share "heartfelt advice" on topics ranging from spirituality and weight management to weddings and pets. The busiest forums are those on sex-related topics
which, last week, had more than 15,000 posted messages many from men lured in, perhaps, thinking that Women.com was a porn site. Lurkers must join to post messages.
Once you're a member, there's stuff to buy. Click on Shopping it's an option on every page and you'll be led to a banner-rich page filled with links to advertisers, a varied and varying selection of products and a list of product categories, including books, cosmetics, pets, clothing and jewelry.
Click on jewelry and you jump to a page featuring three pieces of merchandise from women.com's featured jewelry "partners" (read: advertisers): FirstJewelry.com, MyJewelry.com and Mondera.com. (Links to each of the partners' sites were also provided). Featured items on this visit included:
On the shopping page, users have the option to choose any one of several types of jewelry rings, necklaces, pearls, diamonds, platinum, etc. Click on "necklaces," for instance, and you'll be able to choose among eight types. Visitors who click on "platinum necklaces" can then choose among 16 suppliers, including girljewelz.com and mitaly.com.
- A "Peyote Bird cuff" bracelet in sterling silver with inlays of gaspeite and turquoise ($175).
- A 14k gold ankle ID bracelet ($45).
- Diamond stud earrings in 14k yellow gold settings ($225).
The downside? Well, the 16 suppliers are the same for all types of jewelry. And, instead of showing visitors what they were looking for, the system simply delivers them to the partner site's homepage where they have to begin searching anew. Plus, the image quality is iffy.
The upside? Just think of all those women.
- by Mark E. Dixon