Take Initiative, Change the Industry

Originally published August 31, 2016

Screenshot above taken from the new, award-winning Tweak website.

Sunday, August 21 marked the 65th annual Gifts and Decorative Accessories Retailer Excellence Awards. While the signature engraved vases and delectable three-course dinner were familiar, there was something distinctly different about this year’s awards.

Introduced at the event, Online Initiatives is a new award category that honors retailers who embrace digital solutions and platforms as part of their everyday business. Our co-founder Goran Buvac proudly presented this inaugural award on behalf of Bonagora, noting that, “The Online Initiatives Award is important and really close to our heart because we at Bonagora believe that the physical world and the online world are not mutually exclusive.”

The recipient of the 2016 Online Initiatives Award was Tweak, a concept store based in Los Angeles that sells pre-wrapped gifts. Owner Tara Riceberg accepted the award and later spoke with Bonagora about her experience and why she decided to put more focus into her store’s online presence.

“What I’ve realized is that people use my website as a tool for understanding what my products and concept are about,” explained Riceberg. “So I feel like the website for me is really to validate someone’s choice that coming to see me is the right decision.”

For Riceberg, this goes beyond her website. Tools like Yelp, or anything else that could appear during a Google search, are crucial aspects of any brand’s identity. “Everything links, so you really need to make sure that your information is current and compete,” she said. “Photographs speak a thousand words because people are visual today. They have no time, so how do you quickly and efficiently communicate the value of your business?”

Online Initiatives, when done properly, can replicate the same great customer experience known from a face-to-face interaction. This was a challenge for Riceberg, who describes her store as “experience driven.”

“That was my biggest struggle, how do you make a website interactive and create that ease of shopping online. You can’t touch anything,” Riceberg said. “What I did for my site, was that I made everything black and white until you scroll over the product, then it converts into color. It’s a reveal and almost enlivens the object once you’ve engaged with it.”

This new category not only represents the future of retailers, but it also reflects where consumers are heading. “Shoppers today are much more savvy… everyone is just better informed today than they’ve ever been,” said Riceberg. “It’s time to teach people that this is essential, you cannot do business without the proper tools for communicating. It’s truly one of the most important areas.”

There’s no denying anymore that successfully combining online and offline is the new direction of the industry. While platforms like the Bonagora Marketplace make it easy, it’s still up to you to take the initiative, change the way you do business and get out in front. As Buvac said in his presentation, “[The Internet] is here, it’s happening and it will stay.”

To see the presentation of the Online Initiatives Award and other moments from the REAs, check out our Facebook videos.