December 2, 2003, 12:00 AM

Specialty / Apparel and Accessories:Stitching the details into winning formulas

(Page 2 of 7)

Consumers willing to spend $250 or more on a purse want to know the details. Coach.com is providing them. Eighteen months ago, Coach Inc. began revamping its web site. Today, it features fast-loading zoom technology from RichFX Inc., multiple views of watches and easy-to-use color-switching technology. “We’re trying to give the customer as much information as he or she needs to make an informed decision,” says Ron Offir, director of Coach.com. “We’re a premium brand and so this technology allows us to showcase the incredible quality and craftsmanship of each product.”

Coach had experimented with product display, but not until the new RichFX zoom technology came out-based on Macromedia’s Flash-was Coach able to create the online shopping experience it sought. “We won’t launch technology unless we think it’s perfect,” Offir says. In the case of the RichFX technology, Offir says, “The image remains sharp throughout the zooming process. There’s no tunnel effect.”

Analysts give Coach.com’s re-launch high marks. “Coach does a good job of showing all their products at their web site,” says Heather Brilliant, stock analyst with investment research firm Morningstar Inc. “Shoppers can immediately see the highlights of every item and they can advance easily throughout the site and access other items.”

Coach has built a $600 million a year business on quality leather products. The direct-to-consumer business of Coach.com, a catalog, 156 company-owned stores and 76 factory outlets account for 59% of sales. The company doesn’t break out Internet sales versus other channels, but it strives to make all channels work together-and the web is a key component, Offir says. “We view the site as not only a sales channel, but primarily as a marketing channel,” he says. “The vast majority of customers there are pre-shopping the brand before they go to a store.”

Coach is extending zoom and color swapping to all products. It has introduced multiple product views on watches and plans to extend that to other products as well. “We will continue to explore how to show the product in new and exciting ways,” Offir says. For instance, it is now testing multiple angle photography with handbags.

But all the greatest display technology in the world won’t translate into sales unless consumers know about it and how to use it. And so Coach plans to promote zoom views to customers with a pop-up window and demo on the home page. “For us, it’s all about ease of navigation and product display,” Offir says. “If customers see it once, they start using it.” m

Coach.com
Date
2000
Unique Visitors (monthly)
460,000*
Site Design
in-house
CRM
NA
Fulfillment
in-house
Order Management
NA
Web Analytics
Vividence
Payment Processor
NA
Content Management
in-house
E-Mail Management
NA
*As reported by comScore Networks Inc.

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eBags.com
The testing never ends

In their pre-web days, Jon Nordmark and his colleagues at Samsonite Corp. spent a lot of time identifying market needs, testing new offerings through surveys and consumer focus groups, then selecting the most promising new products and testing sales in the market.

Now they do all that in expedited time on the web through eBags.com-and in the process have created a reputation for eBags of being fearless testers of anything that might boost sales. For instance, it constantly undertakes design tests, presenting a page design to 10% of shoppers, then if it succeeds, gradually presenting the same design to all shoppers. “We test with live customers, not just with usability studies, so results are real and can be extrapolated to a larger audience,” says Nordmark, co-founder and CEO.

Nordmark realizes that finding the right formula for satisfying customers’ demands is key to survival. “We’re not just guessing at market demand,” he says. “We’re trying to scientifically figure out how to better serve consumers.”

The formula has worked well, as eBags survived the post-9/11 downturn in travel to continue strengthening its niche as the leading online retailer specializing in luggage and other carrying bags. Although eBags doesn’t report revenue, Nordmark says it was cash-flow positive for the 12 months ending with the third quarter and expects to be profitable next year. He also expects to sell close to 1 million bags next year, half of what eBags sold in the past four years combined.

“They have an online niche that they own,” says Neil Stern, principal of retail consultants McMillan/Doolittle. He attributes eBags’s growth to aggressive marketing combined with a well-run web site that presents innovative displays and promotions. And by continuously looking for new selling opportunities and testing them, eBags sets the stage for more growth, he adds.

For example, it monitors the effectiveness of its site navigation terms. “Our navigation uses a lot of industry terms like ‘carry-on with wheels,’ but a lot of consumers call that a rollaway,” Nordmark says. “So we’ll use consumer terms as navigation words, to provide a more relevant browsing experience.”

EBags doesn’t ignore, however, good, old-fashioned merchandising techniques. A recent campaign profiled customers with photos of how they use bags purchased from eBags. Nearly half of shoppers who view the profiles click to the page of a featured product; the profile of a venture capitalist has already resulted in a sellout of one of his featured bags, Nordmark says. “This is a way to make the profiled customer the hero, which makes our bags even more appealing,” he says. m

eBags.com
Date
1999
Unique Visitors (monthly)
1,500,000
Site Design
in-house
CRM
Kana Sofware

Affiliate Management
Be Free
Fulfillment
in-house
Order Management
in-house
Web Analytics
Omniture
Payment Processor
Paymentech
Content Management
in-house
E-Mail Management
Kana Software/in-house
Site Search
Endeca
Search Engine Management
in-house
Content Delivery Network
Akamai

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