February 28, 2002, 12:00 AM

Triple-play Merchandising

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The catalog focused less on content about the singer and more on the merchandise, with photography that further showcased Shakira’s Bohemian-inspired look.

The stores let shoppers interact with the merchandise in 3-D and helped customers assemble the style for themselves. In addition to giant blow-ups of the photo image of Shakira that appeared on the spring catalog cover and on the web site, store windows launched the promotion by featuring the Delia’s clothing that the singer wore in those images. Other articles of clothing that are part of the same fashion trend were featured in the front of the store, near the front of the catalog and a click away from the home page. Later on, during the three-to four-week promotion, store windows rotated displays to feature other outfits reflective of Shakira’s style. For added buzz, Delia’s cross-promotion even went outside its own distribution channels to find other partners: it worked with
Epicrecords.com and Sony.com to time its fashion promotion to the U.S. launch of Shakira’s latest recording.

“Our web site is a hybrid of our store and catalog,” Chasin says. “The catalog visits our teen customer in-house. It’s a mobile experience she can take to school, read in bed, share with friends. The most social of the experiences in the store, where she can talk with sales associates and friends about how to put the merchandise together.”

Besides taking the lead in one aspect of the promotion, each channel also drove shoppers to the other channels to get the rest of the experience, which helped align them further with the brand, the singer, and the featured merchandise. The catalog directed shoppers to the web site or a store to enter the contest. Both the catalog and web also provided information about a special gift-with-purchase offer. Store signs encouraged shoppers to visit the web site to download the video clips.

Creating the loop

It’s a continuous loop that not only builds on itself and serves up the opportunity to buy at every turn, it’s also a test for future cross-channel promotions. “We’re interested in how the customer migrates from channel to channel, and we’re just putting the measurements together to understand that,” Chasin says. “We’re just starting to learn what that cross-channel interaction is.”

Retailers have always known that brand matters, but if anyone needs any more proof, here’s a finding from AMR’s recent survey of online holiday shoppers: 85% chose to make purchases at the web sites of major branded retailers. But the expression of the brand on the different channels, and particularly the web, is taking new turns as merchants test the opportunities of each. Once retailers have a good handle on that, the next challenge is figuring out how to best combine the power of the three. What’s clear already is that any multi-channel merchant who still treats the web site, catalogs and stores as stand-alones will increasingly miss opportunities and eventually find himself looking at the back end of the competition.

Retail analysts say the day of combined channels is not here yet, in part because of legacy systems that hinder easy information exchange across channels. But it could be around the corner.

Some retailers already are closer than others, and this experience from The Sharper Image shows the power of consistency in cross channel merchandising. Items that sell well don’t tend to do better in one channel than another: they perform equally well in all three, says Wan, a fact she attributes to advertising and marketing efforts that strive to be uniform across channels. “We wanted a completely integrated approach from the start and that stems from the key objective of branding,” Wan says. “The Sharper Image brand has been around for 25 years and our customers know us well as a place that provides cool, innovative merchandise. So we want the shopper to have an experience that’s as similar as possible, no matter what channel they use.”

mary@verticalwebmedia.com

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