December 26, 2000, 9:55 AM

The secret to Victoria`s Secret web success

Don Davis

Editor in Chief

If anyone needs a legitimate reason for viewing the Victoria’s Secret Web site on company computers during work hours, the success of its debut may provide some cover. Many retailers may be looking at the site to help them determine what makes a successful Web site.

The successful interactive showing of Victoria’s Secret annual fashion show may provide a blueprint that other online retailers can follow. Granted that most retailers do not sell the kinds of goods that attract viewers to the Victoria’s Secret site, there’ still something to be learned: The right concept, promoted in the right way to the right audience can create a huge Internet-retailing success.

Victoria’s Secret promoted its Web site selling women’s intimate apparel in Super Bowl commercials three days before the debut, and in full-page newspaper ads.

Technical problems

Victoria’s Secret then unveiled a video fashion show featuring model Tyra Banks. More than 1 million Internet users viewed the show while millions more tried in frustration to get a look themselves. Many of those who did get onto the site complained about poor sound quality and blurred pictures.

The next day, the press was full of stories about how millions of people were denied access to the Victoria’s Secret site-which in turn probably generated more traffic. Executives of The Limited’s Intimate Brands, which operates Victoria’s Secret, turned what should have been a PR disaster into a marketing success. “We were expecting a phenomenal response, but not that big,” says a spokeswoman. “This shows you can take an event and blow it out on the Internet.”

In the two weeks after the event aired, another 2.5 million people viewed a version of the fashion show archived on the Victoria’s Secret Web site.

And that ongoing interest is generating more than just sheer numbers of curiosity seekers.

It’s generating additional Web sales for Victoria’s Secret, especially among men. “There are men shopping at Victoria’s Secret online that would never show up in a store,” says Peter C. Clemente, vice president, Cyber Dialogue, a New York Internet market research firm. “The Web lets them shop from the privacy of home.”

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