Vitacost Seeks To Replicate In-Store Experience On Tablets

Sometimes shoppers go to the store with a mission and other times they go to browse. The same holds true when they shop online. Vitacost, an online retailer of health and wellness products, unveiled a digital platform for tablet devices that makes it easier to peruse the company’s offerings in various categories, much as they would wander the aisles of a brick-and-mortar store.

“The online shopping experience is moving toward tablets, and tablets are great for online shopping if you go to a web site and know what you want,” said David Zucker, Chief Marketing Officer of Vitacost. “However, not all customers come to the web site knowing exactly what they want. In the middle of last year we placed a priority on developing a site for tablets that would make it easy to browse and discover new items.”

The browsing-oriented web site,, was developed by Fell Swoop, a web site designer, and Branding Brand, a mobile commerce platform provider. The site was built for viewing on iPads and iPad minis.


Site Navigation Via Information “Bubbles”

A distinguishing feature of the site is the information navigation points, also known as “browsing bubbles.” These bubbles provide shoppers with specific information, such as dietary attributes and ingredients, about the 40,000 healthy-living products offered on the site. The browsing bubbles also provide links to similar products. If a shopper clicks on a bag of gluten-free chips, for example, bubbles will direct them to other gluten-free products, products from the same company, or other healthy snacks.

A proprietary “sprinkler algorithm” also randomly selects categories and brands to present to shoppers.

“The browsing bubbles really stimulate visitors to discover new items,” Zucker said. “When you go to a grocery store, sometimes you just run in for milk and bread, but on other trips when you have more time you end up walking down the aisles and finding new products. We wanted the tablet experience to mirror that discovery type of shopping trip.”

The site integrates the “swipe-and-drag” capabilities of the tablet. “The drag-and-drop feature makes it easier for shoppers to get things into the cart,” Zucker said. “We found that there tends to be some friction with high-item carts when buying online and sometimes it gets frustrating so users abandon the cart. This design helps eliminate that friction.”

Zucker said Vitacost decided to develop this tablet-friendly site, rather than a downloadable app, because apps often are downloaded and forgotten. “First, you have to get someone to download the app,” he said. “Then you have to get them to remember that they have the app, as research shows that 40% to 70% of users never return to an app after they have downloaded it.  Then, there is the updating involved with an app once it is downloaded.”

Zucker also noted that apps are geared mainly toward purchasing known items, not researching new products.

The web site may eventually replace the online retailer’s traditional site on platforms beyond the tablet, Zucker added. “We’ve had a tremendous response since launching in early April, so we will have to assess the needs of our customers are going forward.”

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