Digitalia: ratings and ravings

Last month, our exploration of kid-targeted e-commerce looked at a business model that encourages kids to shop on-line....
June 1, 1999

Last month, our exploration of kid-targeted e-commerce looked at a business model that encourages kids to shop on-line.

This time around, we check out the other half of the equation:

the highly compelling content that makes spending easy and fun.

On-line retailing can be a bit tricky unless your e-commerce concept is incredibly well thought out. Getting someone to visit a site is one thing, but convincing them to buy is another. Two sites really kicking butt with younger on-line shoppers are mXg (, an on-line version of the same-name print mag, and Delia’s (, a teen-focused, e-commerce colossus. Both target teenage girls, but more interestingly, both share three common elements that will make ANY on-line retailer a smash hit. . .

They keep you coming back

The key to the success of any e-commerce site is offering up-to-date content so compelling that your target market can’t help but return. . . regularly. Both mXg and Delia’s garner loyal visitor bases by offering a healthy number of deliverables, including chat, book reviews, advice, contests and news. mXg does it all on-site, while Delia’s sends visitors to its affiliate Gurl magazine ( What makes these e-tailers smarter than the average on-line Joe is that they leverage the excitement generated by a constant flow of new products and merchandise. When you browse Delia’s, you’re hit over the head with reminders that the site has 102 new items to choose from-spanning categories like shoes, clothes and accessories-and that new products are constantly being added. mXg takes a slightly different approach. It concentrates on supporting a youthful ‘lifestyle’ through current info on music, celebrities and, of course, mXg mag. In the background, a stack of hip girlie clothing and merchandise is available for perusal.

Offer more

Retailing has evolved so much that ‘products’ aren’t nearly as important as understanding how they fit into the lives of consumers. For a site to ‘offer more,’ it has to add value to those same products with its other on-line areas. mXg takes a kick at this can with an advice feature called Ask Tania. Also on-site are book reviews, interviews with young people and special one-off feature articles like a Garbage (the rock band) tour diary-this site is all about ‘girl culture.’ Delia’s takes a far more pragmatic approach with its value-adds, providing input on how to measure yourself, a Wish List (electronic layaway) and an associate program whereby you link your home page to Delia’s and get paid a commission for any sales originating from your site. Sweet! While all of these features seem purely practical, the aim is the same-to get people excited and to keep them coming back.

Build a community

People, especially teens, love to feel involved, and on-line communities offer just that. They provide support, they connect people with common interests and they convey highly relevant information. Both mXg and Delia’s do an excellent job of making their visitors feel connected and comfortable. mXg uses an ‘ultra-lounge’ concept with chat (still being built), news and reviews. Delia’s keeps its retail and recreation areas separate, but affliliate takes the community concept to another level with ‘silly votes’ (i.e. a voting option on which movie out of three current teen flicks has the best ‘lovin’ scene’), reader music reviews and reader poetry.

What about the technical aspects of the sites? Believe it or not, technological tricks are becoming less and less important in the e-tailing realm-that is to say, they’re not nearly as crucial as what is being offered. As a programmer or content provider, your focus should be on building up a constituency of repeat visitors and ensuring that they can easily find exactly what they want. Both mXg and Delia’s are about helping individuals express themselves, and by focusing on this key goal, these two sites are a hit with on-line teens. Although mXg won’t talk numbers, Delia’s garnered US$113 million in sales for 1997.

Next month: The Cyber Space checks out the next generation walkman-the portable MP3 player.

Greg Skinner is the director of Mina, a market intelligence company with expertise in the youth market. He also admits to being a bit of a World Wide Web junkie. KidScreen asked him to do some browsing on our behalf and report on the latest developments in new media and how these innovations are having an impact on the kids entertainment industry. He is still at it. If you have any suggestions or ideas for topics you’d like to see in ‘The Cyber Space,’ please contact Greg Skinner at 416-504-6800 (phone), 416-504-4054 (fax) or (e-mail).

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