December 26, 2000, 9:55 AM

Focused----but not too fancy

What’s it take to become one of the web’s stickiest retail sites? Coldwater Creek knows. Coldwatercreek.com holds its average shopper 18 minutes-nearly a minute longer than No. 2 JCPenney.com and nearly 5 minutes longer than Landsend.com, Media Metrix says. “We focused strongly on bringing our brand to the Internet and sticking to our niche,” says Karen Reed, vice president of Coldwater Creek’s Internet division. “We focused on getting the basics right. We didn’t want to use the fun and fancy technology because not all of our customers could take advantage of it.” That strategy is paying off. “The web was our most profitable channel last quarter,” Reed says.

Coldwater Creek’s customer is a 35- to 54-year-old woman, “fashion aware, but not fashion conscious,” in the words of Duif Calvin, senior retail consultant at IXL, Atlanta-based Internet strategies and services firm. A year and a half ago, these were not the consumers many expected would buy online. But Coldwater Creek has crafted a site that attracts and holds them. “One reason the site is so sticky is because it’s so useful,” Calvin says. “They were very creative in designing features that buyers are interested in, not just what designers are interested in.” Among the outstanding features: “I give them huge points for having their color choices in an order that makes sense for the shopper,” Calvin says. For instance, white is at the top of the search list. “That’s probably the most popular color, but if the selection were alphabetical, it would be last so most people would find their first choice at the end of the list.”

A telling measure of the success of coldwatercreek.com is that the company has closed three of its 13 outlet stores due to strong outlet sales on the web-and more closings are likely. “We have been aggressively bringing customers to the site,” Reed says.

Coldwatercreek.com

Sandpoint, Idaho.

Monthly visitors: 950,000

Sales: $18.8 million Q2

Went live: July 1999

Design by: In-house

OS: MS/Windows 2000

E-C Software: In-house

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