In its second-largest acquisition, Amazon buys the company for $970 million.
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The winning formula
Get shoppers to the site and make sure they have a great experience: LandsEnd.com’s winning formula is out there for any retailer to see and claim. But Lands’ End Inc. doesn’t worry about that-because it executes the strategy better than just about anyone else.
Between the launch of its site in 1999 and last year, when online sales were $435 million or 28% of revenue, Lands’ End, now a division of Sears, Roebuck and Co., has become the largest seller of apparel online. “One reason Lands’ End’s business has grown so dramatically is they’ve converted catalog shoppers to Internet shoppers,” says Forrester Research Inc. analyst Carrie Johnson. “Another is their innovation and its impact on sales.”
While other web retailers were mired in building brand and infrastructure, cataloger Lands’ End already had them. It was able to focus on polishing its e-commerce initiative early on, developing a string of web firsts. The latest, Lands’ End Custom, may prove the most valuable. More than simply a “wow,” custom-tailored pants and shirts are delivering new customers-25% are first-timers-and more purchases from existing ones. After testing with custom khakis two years ago, Lands’ End is spreading the custom option across more categories. The newest, women’s custom shirts, will debut shortly.
While Lands’ End doesn’t seek to drive shoppers to one channel over another, Lands’ End Custom has done that because it’s only on the web. “We think the Internet is the best channel for custom product and personalized service,” says Sam Taylor, vice president of e-commerce. The numbers bear him out. At 40% of jeans and chinos sales online, Lands’ End Custom far exceeds initial projections of 5% to 10%.
While custom apparel may star, the site offers plenty more-90,000 SKUs, in fact, the entire inventory, which would require a 750-page catalog. That much choice in one well-organized place is just one reason customers keep returning, and Lands’ End continually challenges itself to give them more. Within the past few months alone, it reworked its navigation to deliver information such as product price earlier in the shopping process and enhanced its site search. And for the 40% of customers who use dial-up connections, it added functionality that makes page downloads three times faster.
As an innovator, LandsEnd.com continues to be its own best competition. “It’s one of the best experiences you can have online,” says Johnson. That’s one of the reasons Lands’ End is one of only two-Amazon being the other-online retailers that have made all five editions of Internet Retailer’s Best of the Web. m
Unique Visitors (monthly)
So old dogs don’t keep learning new tricks? Check out the web site of L.L. Bean. At age 91, the venerable Bean brand is ancient in Internet years, yet it’s got one of the slickest and most efficient web operations going. “The brand speaks to a certain lifestyle, and the site supports that, starting with the duck boot on the home page,” says The E-Tailing Group president Lauren Freedman.
Within the last year alone, it’s redesigned its home department and product pages to boost merchandising capacity and make it easier for customers to shop as, well as instituted a major site search upgrade. It’s added to an already high-functioning site the ability to buy multi-component outfits from one page, and to build an equipment list and buy all of it from one page, the ability to track orders online and more.
And if it didn’t invent those things, or it hasn’t strayed into latest online display technology, it’s because part of its winning formula is adhering to a principle in line with its practical Down East roots. “We’re never enamored with what we could do,” says e-commerce vice president Mary Lou Kelley. “You can do a lot of whiz-bang things on a site, but we always ask if they would actually add tangible value and help the customer.”
In fact, L.L. Bean, which strives to offer a seamless shopping experience across all channels, makes no particular effort to drive customers from other channels to the web site unless there is a specific reason beyond the customer’s own preference. One such reason is information better presented online. The site plays to the unique strength of the channel by offering the complete assortment, easy product comparisons, and deep product information. L.L. Bean has developed well over 50 product guides on gear that are available only online. The catalog pages reference that, as well as remind shoppers that while only a few models of kayaks, for example, may be presented in its pages, the full assortment is online.
“The web complements our other channels, so we want customers to have the same experience across channels,” says Kelley. “Customer service is part of our brand and our heritage and we’ve carried that out to the web site as well.”
Unique Visitors (monthly)
Search Engine Management
Content Delivery Network
*As reported by comScore Networks Inc.