Hifi.com Unveils Sister Site Targeted To Female Shoppers

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On-line CE retailer Hifi.com has launched a sister site designed to attract women and increase the company's percentage of sales to females, who currently account for 10% of the company's on-line purchases.

The new site, Herhifi.com, is the only female-oriented CE e-tailing site and one of a handful of e-tailing sites devoted to women, said Herhifi.com program manager Laurie Nova. One of those sites is a car-buying site operated by Autobytel. Another is operated by Home Depot.

A Herhifi.com-sponsored survey of 1,000 women supports the need for a gender-oriented site, she said. Almost 50% of the surveyed women said they are somewhat or very intimidated about buying CE products on or off-line, she said. Sixty-four percent said they don't have enough information to feel comfortable making a purchase on-line.

Despite their intimidation, women accounted for 22% of sales in the $81 billion CE market, the company said in citing CEA statistics. They also account for 50% of all on-line Christmas purchases on- line, she said. And by 2003, they will shop on-line in greater numbers than men, the company said in citing Jupiter Communications forecast.

Herhifi.com will tap into this market potential by tailoring its selling approach to the way women buy CE products, Nova said. Their key criteria, she claimed, are "practicality and functionality."

To attract these consumers, the site's home page will emphasize the ability to shop according to the room in which they want to use products, including bedroom, living room, or home office. "We will merchandise products as you see them in the home," Nova said.

Women will also be able to shop according to lifestyles, which include frequent traveling and living in dorms and studio apartments, she said.

The site's product mix will offer hifi.com's existing selection of almost 800SKUs and will add about another 100 chosen because of their potential appeal to women. Those products include under-counter radios and TVs, shower radios, decor-oriented products, and stylish and colorful products, including Konka's pastel-color flat-tube TVs.

Many of these and other select models will be presented to web surfers when they click on the room buttons. But surfers will also be able to access the site's complete mix of almost 900 if they decide to shop by category.

Also to appeal to women, the site will include Hifi.com's Ask Kate section written by Kate Connors, one of the company's CE experts, to explain technology in easy terms. Journalist Rebecca Day will provide buying tips and product reviews.

Although women will take to the site, many of its features will also appeal to some men, the company said. "What is good for herhifi.com is, for a lot of people, good for hifi.com," said Nova. "We're not Venus and Mars here."

Tom Hannaher, hifi.com's merchandise VP, agreed. "A number of men in focus groups thought the shopping-by-room concept was a good idea."

The shop-by-room feature and other Herhifi.com-developed ideas will be transplanted to the hifi.com site, as will the additional SKUs selected by herhifi.com management. But overall, both sites will maintain a different look and feel in order to "tell women there's a place they can go," Hannaher said.

For example, the herhifi site will lead with the shop-by-room feature, but hifi.com will put it at the bottom of its navigation bar. "And there will be more emphasis on Kate and Rebecca to set more of a female tone," he said. In addition, when consumers shop by room, both sites will present the same choices, but each will highlight certain SKUs over others, perhaps sub/sat speakers over tower speakers, Nova said.

All of the new site's features will be operational by June. The site will be accessible from Hifi.com's site or by typing Herhifi.com. The site will be promoted initially by e-mail, and eventually direct mail and print ads will be developed, Nova said.

Both sites will also add music and movie software, and instant messaging from an on-line expert will be in place on both by June.

The two sites' brands include Aiwa, Celestion, Harman Kardon, JBL, JVC, Marantz, Monster Cable, Niles, Onkyo, Panasonic, Philips, and Russound.

Hifi.com, on line for less than a year, said its average ticket exceeds $300 as expected and that Christmas demand was so heavy that "we were close to maxing out our capacity to fulfill the number of products we could ship in one day," Hannaher said. The company rented out two overflow warehouses to supplement its three-level, 100,000-square-foot main warehouse. The company had enough inventories to fulfill all orders, although the company "was tight on a couple of passive sub/sat speaker systems that outsold our expectations," he said.

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