E-commerce strategists consider what format and features to give their business site designs the volume of visitors that they want. Certain features are known to be attractors of visitors. There are several types of business website attractors in use, including the entertainment park, the archive, exclusive sponsorship, the town hall, the club, the gift shop, the freeway intersection or portal, and the customer service center (Watson, 2008, p.41). This paper focuses on the last three attractors in the list: the gift shop, the freeway intersection or portal, and the customer service center.
The Gift Shop Attractor
The gift shop attractor gives something to the visitor in exchange for their data (Watson, 2008, p.43). Oftentimes, the visitor must sign up for a newsletter in exchange for a whitepaper or news article. Some sites offer a promo code if a visitor signs up for their newsletter or email list. Other sites encourage users to collaborate, comment, and share to gain points or badges. This gamifies that visitor’s experience of the gift shop attractor, while encouraging them to contribute, share, and exchange marketing details for rank in their site. The visitor gets something as a gift in return for this contribution, whether it is rank on the site or a promo code for 20% off.
An example of a site that gamifies visitors in trade for sharing or content contribution is the Cisco Learning Network (https://learningnetwork.cisco.com). Similarly, Google reviews gives an increased tour guide rank for reviews of places. Sites like VMware and Microsoft give awards like vExpert and MVP, respectively, to visitors who contribute a lot, building the content and support articles on their sites while rewarding visitors for their loyalty.
For instance, on software company Veeam’s website (https://www.veeam.com/whitepapers.html), the visitor has to trade their name, email address, country, and company for marketing purposes if they want to access a whitepaper. Verizon does similar when trying to download their 2019 Data Breach Investigations Report (https://enterprise.verizon.com/resources/reports/dbir/). In order to download the report, Verizon collects marketing contact information that they may sell, trade, or use for marketing sales, per their privacy statement.
Other sites like ResearchGate (https://www.researchgate.net/) create a free social network where information is exchanged for access to research papers and articles, while inviting registered users to contribute with their own articles. InfoWorld’s (https://www.infoworld.com) online IT magazine requires visitors to sign up for a free account, giving their information, before reading articles. The Washington Post, Forbes, Fortune, The Verge, and ZDNet all try to collect information and news sign-ups in exchange for news articles. These sites all give the user the opportunity to share articles on Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn, while also providing mechanisms for users to comment, thus contributing to the content as well as free viral marketing.
The Freeway Intersection or Portal Attractor
Freeway intersections and portals are websites that see a lot of traffic due to being at the crossroads of information or are the entry points to the Internet for some users (Watson, 2008, p.44). Search engines, news sites, and shopping sites or marketplaces are examples (Watson, 2008, p.44). They create an intersection or portal attraction by offering visitors opportunities to read, hear, watch, or buy from a lot of different sources. A portal is known to “combine information from different sources into a single user interface” (Draper, 2018). As such, portal websites are often the ones that are bookmarked by users or set to be their homepage. The portal websites are the sites that the user types into a fresh tab.
Every Microsoft Internet Explorer (default on Windows PCs) and Microsoft Edge browser defaults at msn.com, featuring the Bing search engine, at launch, unless the user has set a custom home page. MSN’s site opens with links to shopping and games, while showing current events and news articles. There are polls and quizzes, must-watch videos, links to entertainment, money, and sports sections, as well as the ability to search car listings for a new or used car right on the front page. Being the default Microsoft browser home page, MSN’s site also links people to Office 365, Skype, OneDrive, and Outlook.com. MSN, in this fashion, is both a portal attractor (the user’s first page to the Internet) as well as a freeway intersection attractor. Examples of similar sites are Yahoo! and Google.
Craigslist is such a site that sees a lot of regional traffic in its regional sites as people look for jobs, homes, or buy and sell garage sale items. There are forums and services and community-based posts on Craigslist. Craigslist does not monetize through ad revenue, which is probably a missed opportunity. The sheer nature of being a community marketplace and forum brings a lot of traffic to Craigslist, making it a freeway intersection attractor.
The Customer Service Center Attractor
The customer service center attractor creates a support system for clients, often for post-sale support or information (Watson, 2008, p.44). Many sites include a knowledgebase, support chat, and a community forum to get support from other users as well as the company. Frequently asked questions, how-to videos, and PDFs of product manuals may be included. The customer service center attractor may use the site to track orders, get warranty service, or process returns. A good customer service center enables visitors to self-serve or find help if needed. Some customers want to find their own solutions and solve their own problems at the customer service center (Bernazzani, n.d.).
Shipping carriers such as UPS, FedEx, and the United States Postal Service allow users to track parcels and report issues. With all of these carriers, a customer can sign up for an account to receive notifications of delivery status. UPS (https://www.ups.com/us/en/help-support-center.page), in addition to tracking services, provides a customer service phone number as well as a live chat to enable service with customers in a support site that also includes several how-to/FAQ-type informational entries.
Sites like Amazon allow users to track items, leave reviews, and process returns in their support area. Target’s website has a similar customer service area. This is an opportunity for sits to retain customers even though they may be dissatisfied with a particular product. By enabling the visitors to return their products easily and replace them with new products, Amazon and Target increase loyalty. This is a strength of Target, Amazon, and even Walmart. Customers will buy from Amazon without hesitancy knowing that they can easily return it and buy something else. While being data-driven companies, these companies excel in return processing and analysis of return data, while giving customers the rapid response times they crave (Bernazzani, n.d.).
In conclusion, the gift shop, the freeway intersection or portal, and the customer service center all find a way to engage the visitor, whether exchanging their email address for a research paper or deciding what route to take in a busy and adventurous web portal, or starting a live chat with customer service about a damaged parcel. This engagement and interaction is what the visitors are seeking out when they go to these sites. These are key attractors that the web strategists for these companies consider when designing their web presence.
Bernazzani, Sophia. (n.d.). What Good Customer Service Looks Like at 9 Companies. Retrieved from https://blog.hubspot.com/service/good-customer-service
Draper, Matthew. (2018). 16 Awesome Web Porta Examples (2018 Update). Retrieved from https://www.liferay.com/blog/en-us/digital-strategy/16-awesome-web-portal-examples
Watson, R.T., Berthon, P., Pitt, L. F. & Zinkham, G. M. (2008). Electronic Commerce: The Strategic Perspective. Global Text Project. Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.