AOL Rolls Out New Shopping Destination

America Online announced today the rollout of a new 17 category-specific shopping platform — the result of years of analyzing its members online shopping behavior.

The leading online interactive services company said the marketplace would introduce its shopping services in October. The new shopping platform embraces AOL’s existing network. [email protected] went online Monday, while Shop@Compuserve, Shop@Netscape and Shop@DigitalCity will be unveiled later in the year.

AOL seems genuinely excited about what it calls the “next generation” e-commerce features that have been developed for the sites. The company said Shop@AOL was developed by a new team of veteran retailers and an experienced team of AOL and Netscape technology experts.

“The new Shop@AOL experience — with its new interface and merchandising tools — goes well beyond a simple redesign,” said AOL Chief Operating Officer, Bob Pittman. “It reflects years of listening to our members’ needs, analyzing their shopping behavior and understanding exactly what they want from their online shopping experience. We’re building on our relationship with the largest audience of shoppers in cyberspace to create a shopping destination that delivers exactly what our users expect from online shopping.”

The Pressure of Being Number One

If those sound like the words of a zealot, AOL surely knows that everyday brings a new challenge in e-commerce and this revamping of its shopping platform will have a significant impact on the company’s future.

AOL will not fall if [email protected] fails to meet expectations, but other e-commerce portals can chip away at its supremacy. The company is obviously taking steps it feels will keep it securely on top.

AOL says the “next generation” introductions on the new sites include 17 commerce centers, online catalogs, personal buying guides, quick checkout “wallet” technology and other updated features.

Ultimately, the 46 million users of AOL, Netscape, DigitalCity and CompuServe will decide whether the “next generation” is as user-friendly as the last. They are, in effect, the largest group of quality control experts in cyberspace.

Preaching to the Converted

In announcing the rollout of the new platform, AOL also offered a peek at some of their proprietary e-commerce information. Over 30 million people log onto AOL every month, two million use CompuServe, five million look at DigitalCity and more than 19 million check out Netscape NetCenter every month.

Surveys show that DigitalCity users are 28 percent more likely than the average Internet user to make an online purchase, the company says. Netscape NetCenter users spend, on average, $2,595 on online goods and services annually. It also states 30 percent of AOL users shop online every month.

The company is clearly hoping to improve on those arbitrarily-offered figures and its just as clear that they think the Shop@ sites will allow them to do so.

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