October 2, 2001, 12:00 AM

Brand Power

(Page 2 of 3)

Historically aligned with leading apparel designers, Macys.com introduced eight new designer boutiques. They include Polo Ralph Lauren, Calvin Klein, DKNY, Tommy Hilfiger, Liz Claiborne, Kenneth Cole, Jones New York and Lancome. Each boutique was developed to feature the best merchandise with the style and branding of the designer, Anderson says.

The benefit that Federated gains from housing boutiques within its web site is that it attracts shoppers who are familiar with the brands and thus more likely to be comfortable shopping online. “Customers look to us for brands,” Robertson says. “We’re finding that consumers most often turn to their favorite brands and the styles of clothes they’re familiar with. They know how Calvin Klein and the Jones New York clothes fit them. We’re taking that experience online with these new boutiques. We’re migrating those vendor and customer relationships onto the web.”

Robertson points out that the majority of what Macy’s had been selling online was brand-name-designer home products. But this trend is changing as customers get more used to shopping for clothes online. “Now the pendulum is swinging the other way and people are starting to buy fashion online,” she says. “So we’re beginning to sell those brands online. One of our goals is to make it easier for customers to buy fashion online.”

Making fashion easy

Macys.com has developed several new ways to make buying fashion online easy. As many analysts have suggested, making the online shopping experience more personalized will engage the shopper and not only keep her interested enough to buy something but to actually make multiple purchases and repeat purchases.

Macys.com’s personalization includes communicating online wish ideas by adding a wish list feature, which customers can e-mail to friends. “We have a strong focus on gifts,” says Anderson. “Our customers clearly told us they see Macy’s as a primary brand for gift shopping.” Robertson stresses that the wish list simplifies online shopping, adding that Federated was willing to try features that would make online shopping easier and more engaging for the consumer. Customers must register in order to get a customized wish list.

Macy’s also seeks to engage the shopper by offering improved search functions as well as a comparison shopping function that allows customers to compare similar products by price or feature. Anderson notes that the site will have 75,000 SKUs online to search from and compare, up from 55,000.

A new technology function on the Macys.com site is My Macy’s Closet, a sophisticated wardrobing tool and outfit generator that uses Flash technology to allow customers to mix and match apparel in a virtual fitting room. The “closet” holds up to 100 items that customers can combine with various accessories. They also can add or delete items, save items in a wish list or add an entire outfit to the shopping bag in one click. My Macy’s Closet, which was developed by Macy’s tech staff, uses dynamic inventory management so that the tool can add only items that are in stock. The closet also keeps a running total of all the items stored during an online visit. “My Macy’s Closet takes online shopping one step closer to the store experience,” says Robertson. “One reason we added this tool was to help customers feel more comfortable buying online as well as to encourage them to make multiple purchases.”

Keven Wilder of Wilder & Associates, a retail consulting firm in Chicago, however, believes the My Macy’s Closet function may be too laborious for consumers. “Any time you require a consumer to download an application you run the risk of losing them,” she says. But she says that the feature is “getting there” in terms of mimicking the offline shopping experience.

IXL’s Calvin believes My Macy’s Closet could do more to cross-sell products. She says Macy’s could do a better job selling fashion online by grouping outfits on one page and allowing customers to buy the complete outfit, similar to what they can do at The Gap and Eddie Bauer online stores. “Macy’s has done a remarkable job positioning itself as a fashion leader for Generation Y, Generation X and the Baby Boomers. It is one of the few brands that reaches fashion forward shoppers in all three generations,” she says. “They really have the credibility to be able to say ‘this shirt goes with these pants.’ They have much stronger fashion leadership than the site reflects.”

Further, she says, that drawback could hold down sales growth at the site. “I don’t know if they’ve done enough yet toward increasing the average order value,” she says. “It’s still somewhat difficult to buy the jacket and the pants. My Macy’s Closet is a good approach toward loyal Macy’s shoppers but the majority of those coming to the site will not know about it or use it right away because they have to register for it.” Fewer than 10% of visitors will register with a web site, she says.

New customer service

In addition to the new shopping features, the new Macys.com includes revamped customer service offerings, which the company says were based on customer e-mail and research as well as input from customer service representatives. The site has a detailed help section that answers commonly asked questions and explains how to use the site features. Macy’s also created a glossary of terms to provide definitions on fashion and houseware terms such as acetate, bone china, chemise and stemware. Keeping in line with its drive to promote a multichannel strategy, the section also includes a store locator that provides links to MapQuest for driving directions. Anderson says 25,000 customers access information about local stores each month.

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