November 30, 2004, 12:00 AM

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

(Page 4 of 5)

When shoppers go to Nordstrom.com, they almost feel that they`ve just walked into a Nordstrom store. The web site carries nearly identical merchandise to what is offered through brick-and-mortar channels, offers online chat to enable customers to get the same advice and assistance they expect from a sales associate and has a site design that tries to replicate what customers would see in the store.

Take the twice-annual storewide sales that the department store chain is known for. When Nordstrom throws a sale, online shoppers are able to purchase most of the same marked-down merchandise at the same prices as offered in the stores. And while brick-and-mortar shoppers get a postcard in the mail announcing the sale, online shoppers get an e-mail. The difference is that the latter customers get a hyperlink with their e-mail that allows them to go directly to the sale.

Nordstrom even tries to make its web site look like one of its stores. "They do a great job of making each department within the web site look like what that department should look like," says Lauren Freedman, president of consultants The e-Tailing Group. "When you go to the juniors department, for example, it looks hip and cool like a juniors department should look. If you go to the babies` department, you get a different experience."

Indeed, replicating the store chain, which is known for quality merchandise and strong customer service, is essential to Nordstrom`s online goals. "We want to create a seamless experience so that customers enjoy the same Nordstrom experience no matter which channel they choose," says Julie Bornstein, vice president of e-commerce and catalog sales. "We hope our sizes, selection of merchandise and the site usability set us apart."

As part of an effort to replicate the hands-on service that Nordstrom is known for, Nordstrom.com has live chat available 24/7 so customers can get help as well as get suggestions.

"Their live chat is one of the better experiences on the web," Freedman says.

To further help customers find the right merchandise, Nordstrom has refined its search capabilities so that customers can search by product category, brand, store department, size or color.

Nordstrom Inc.
1616 6th Ave. Seattle, WA 98101
Date Launched
June 1998
Unique visitors (monthly)
2,870,000*
Annual Web-Based Sales
$144,000,000**
Vendor Relationships
Site Design
In-house
E-Commerce Platform
In-house
Web Hosting
In-house
Site Search
In-house
Content Management
In-house
Order Management
Ecometry

Payment Processor
NA
Fulfillment
In-house
Affiliate Marketing Management
LinkShare

Search Engine Management
In-house
E-Mail Marketing
In-house
CRM
In-house
Web Analytics
Coremetrics

Content Delivery Network
In-house
*comScore Networks report, October 2004
**Internet Retailer Top 300 Guide est., 2003


SaksFifthAvenue.com
Perfecting online fashion sales

Being a fashion trendsetter isn`t easy for an Internet retailer. Online shoppers can`t try on the merchandise or get advice from fashion experts.

But SaksFifthAvenue.com has worked to overcome those obstacles so its online channel earns the same respect from fashion aficionados that its retail stores do. To achieve that status, Saks makes it possible for customers to communicate with fashion experts online, has increased product lines so the web`s selection equals the stores`, provides information on how specific brands fit, informs customers about the latest trends, and even offers online trunk sales from leading designers.

"We`ve done everything to make sure the online experience mirrors what customers receive in our stores," says Denise Incandela, senior vice president of Saks Direct.

Overcoming the obstacle of customers not being able to try on merchandise has been a challenge for most retailers. "We`re working with our brand partners so we understand better how each item fits," Incandela says. "Then we can advise customers which items run small and which big."

Incandela even argues that consumers get a better picture of how items go together by shopping online. "At our web site, you can see how a sweater and a skirt look with certain shoes and handbags. You can`t always do this in a store because the products might be on different floors."

Having employees at the call center who can do more than just take orders is important, too. These "fashion consultants" are familiar with the merchandise and fashion trends so they can advise customers about purchases.

Content is also important. The site features the top 10 fashion trends and fashion advice columns. "Our content is similar to what is in fashion magazines. The difference is that at our site, readers can buy the items," Incandela says.

Getting to this point has come through trial-and-error. "Saks was one of the first high-end retailers out of the gate and it has an edge over competitors who are newer to online retailing," says Heather Dougherty, senior analyst for Nielsen/NetRatings. "Early on, Saks put too much on one page, for example, and customers had to do a lot of scrolling. They`ve cleaned up the site and today it is simpler and more targeted."

Saks Inc.
12 E. 49th St. New York, NY 10017
Date Launched
August 2000
Unique visitors (monthly)
1,000,000
Annual Web-Based Sales
$157,500,000**
Vendor Relationships
Site Design
In-house
E-Commerce Platform
NA
Web Hosting
NA
Site Search
NA
Content Management
NA
Order Management
NA
Payment Processor
NA
Fulfillment
In-house
Affiliate Marketing Management
NA
Search Engine Management
NA
E-Mail Marketing
NA
**Internet Retailer Top 300 Guide est., 2003


Zappos.com
Stepping beyond shoes
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