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Not all modern businesses sell online, but nearly all of them need some online presence. For Bi-Rite Market, a gourmet food emporium that opened in the 1940s in San Francisco, the store atmosphere could never be recreated online. So when it came time to revamp its website, the retailer decided the best option would be to create an interactive, exciting site that would excite customers into visiting the market themselves.

People line up as if it were a carnival ride to get inside Bi-Rite Market. When they gain entry, they can watch artisans make cheese or breadmakers pound dough—and then purchase the gourmet products that come out of the performance. Buying online just would not be the same, so Bi-Rite avoided any transactional capabilities when it redesigned its website.

Instead, it focused on making sure the site was just as interesting as the store’s reputation suggested it would be. The vast amount of information available on the site includes catering options, the day’s ice cream flavors, and the seasonal offerings currently available. It also provides insider tips on how best to enjoy the store, once you get there (e.g., go ahead and jump to the front of the ice cream line if you want a pint). Tweets from customers sent from within Bi-Rite Market also get posted.

Thus the site brings alive the enjoyment of a trip to the store, prompting shoppers to remember some reason or another that they need to make a shopping trip. In turn, the amount of web traffic to its site has doubled, and Bi-Rite Market’s sales have increased 20 percent since the relaunch, along with a great expansion of its catering business.

Discussion Questions:

  1. What purpose does biritemarket.com service?

Source: Gabriel Shaoolian, “With Redesign, a Special Retailer Tries to Create an Equally Special Web Site,” The New York Times, January 17, 2012.

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