November 30, 2004, 12:00 AM

Specialty / Apparel & Accessories: Guess what: They will buy apparel online

(Page 3 of 5)

When a customer buys from the same merchant that his parents, grandparents, and maybe even his great-grandparents did, the brand becomes more than a brand, it`s a family tradition. Few brands have that kind of heritage to mine, and fewer do it as effectively as 92-year-old L.L. Bean does. "We consider ourselves fortunate to have customers who feel so strongly about the brand," says e-commerce vice president Mary Lou Kelley.

Case in point is LLBean.com. On top of customer comments gleaned from its call center, ongoing usability research, and a comprehensive annual usability review involving hundreds of users, L.L. Bean this year launched a mechanism to gather customer feedback about products directly from the site. Featured on the home page, department pages throughout the site and in its customer service area, shoppers can submit open-ended comments with one click.

That continuous input results in a web site so well-tuned that Patricia Seybold Group senior vice president Susan Aldrich uses it as the standard to illustrate what she calls "the four `E`s` of e-merchandising-emphasis, environment, excitement and education. L.L. Bean does a good job with all of them," she says. The home page, for example, emphasizes the cross-channel experience by not just offering a link to order the catalog, but also showing a picture of it. "The site works for excitement and education by showing top-sellers on the home page and offering an extensive guide to choosing outerwear," she adds. "Those are merchandising tactics that also help customers accomplish what they need to accomplish."

LLBean.com this year put its own spin on the growing custom trend among retailers by offering custom backpacks online. With more than 350,000 possible combinations of colors and features, it was a huge hit during the back-to-school season, Kelley says--in part because Bean worked with its supply chain to shave delivery time on custom orders to two weeks.

Kelley adds that e-commerce sales at L.L. Bean are growing year over year at about 30%, catching up to the catalog in overall volume. In fact, they may soon do more than that. "Our current trend suggests that within a few years, the e-commerce channel will be the larger of the two," she says.

L.L. Bean Inc.
Casco St. Freeport, ME 04033
Date Launched
1995
Unique visitors (monthly)
1,872,000*
Annual Web-Based Sales
$289,000,000**
Vendor Relationships
Site Design
In-house
E-Commerce Platform
IBM Websphere
Web Hosting
In-house
Site Search
In-house
Content Management
In-house
Order Management
NA
Payment Processor
First National Merchant Services

Fulfillment
In-house
Affiliate Marketing Management
Performics
Search Engine Management
Performics, iProspect
E-Mail Marketing
CheetahMail
Content Delivery Network
Akamai Technologies
*comScore Networks report, October 2004
**Internet Retailer Top 300 Guide est., 2003


NeimanMarcus.com
Where brands rule

Shoppers at Neiman Marcus know that the store is all about top-name designer brands that are not available just anywhere. And it`s no different at NeimanMarcus.com, where brand names rule.

Making this high-end merchandise available nationally is a major function of the web site. "We`ve reached points of distribution through our web site that were not possible before," says Brandon Hoffman, president and CEO of Neiman Marcus Direct. Indeed, he points out that about half of Neiman Marcus` online sales are to customers outside regions served by its stores.

But in making designer products available nationally, Neiman Marcus never lets the customer forget who she is shopping with. "When you shop at NeimanMarcus.com you get the sense that you`re shopping at an upscale store. The graphics, product imagery, service, everything says high end," says Lauren Freedman, president of The E-Tailing Group Inc.

But while selling to new markets, Neiman Marcus doesn`t forget its loyal customers. The store has an aggressive e-mail program that three times a week updates customers on latest trends in fashion as well as alerts them to special promotions and events occurring not only on its web site, but in its stores.

As part of its strong customer service, Neiman Marcus has begun using a personalization feature that alters what customers see on the Neiman Marcus home page. Based on what the store knows about the customer, the merchandise on the home page will vary slightly--a single male shopper, for example, won`t see as much women`s apparel as others see.

To get consumers to visit the site from search engines, Neiman Marcus has continued to invest in brands. "We don`t pay to show up on searches for generic terms like bedding or shoes. We pay to show up on brand searches," Hoffman says.

For the near future, much of Neiman`s emphasis will be on helping high-end designers sell even more merchandise online. The retailer has a deal with designers David Yurman and Salvatore Ferragamo, whose current web sites refer customers to stores or online retailers. Soon the two will offer their own online boutiques where shoppers can make purchases. These shops will be co-branded with and managed by Neiman Marcus.

Neiman Marcus Group Inc.
1 Marcus Square 1618 Main St. Dallas, TX 75201
Date Launched
July 1999
Unique visitors (monthly)
1,337,000*
Annual Web-Based Sales
$230,800,000**
Vendor Relationships
Site Design
In-house
E-Commerce Platform
In-house/Firepond
Web Hosting
In-house
Site Search
In-house
Content Management
In-house
Order Management
In-house
Payment Processor
NA
Fulfillment
In-house
Affiliate Marketing Management
Performics
Search Engine Management
In-house
E-Mail Marketing
CheetahMail
Web Analytics
Coremetrics

*comScore Networks report, October 2004
**Internet Retailer Top 300 Guide est., 2003


Nordstrom.com
Just like the store
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