November 21, 2008, 12:00 AM

Apparel & Accessories

(Page 2 of 9)

AE.com’s children-oriented sister site 77kids.com streamed in November an exclusive one-time concert with hit pop music band Jonas Brothers. The web show-a one-time-only event-included concert performance footage, interviews and other exclusive content. 77kids ran a sweepstakes in advance, awarding seven girls and seven boys tickets to the concert, as well as airfare and hotel accommodations.

The sweepstakes and promotion marked the launch of the 77kids collection aimed at children 2 to 12. 77kids takes its name from the fact that American Eagle Outfitters was founded in 1977.

The site also offers free weekly music and video downloads.

“Music is the hook that keeps shopper traffic coming back,” says Mary Brett Whitfield, senior vice president of consulting firm TNS Retail Forward. “Teens and pre-teens are very interested in learning about the newest bands,” she says.

AE.com also does a good job of advertising and promoting new merchandise, Whitfield says. “Teens are likely to go back to see what’s on the site, what’s new, what should I be thinking about in terms of spending my allowance or bugging mom and dad,” she says.

AE.com has links on the home page to 77kids.com and two other sister sites oriented to youth, Aerie.com and MartinAndOsa.com. Back to top


Visually rich
The products in Anthropologie’s offering are selected to inspire the imagination, and its web site delivers on that promise as well. The product imagery provides a richly layered visual experience that seems at times almost to float shoppers through the site.

At the same time, the site offers navigation features that let customers on a mission bypass browsing to immediately find what they are looking for.

“Every person shops differently. Even the same person may shop differently at different times,” says Michael Robinson, Anthropologie’s executive director of marketing. “If you know you need a sweater, you go directly to the sweaters category, digging down quickly into the small subset of items that really fit your needs. Other times, when you want something but don’t know what it is, shopping by category is less satisfying. That’s why we provide a lot of different shopping features.”

Among those recently added is a shop-by outfit feature that lets shoppers click on individual elements of an on-model outfit for product detail, or add the entire outfit to her cart. Another new feature displays highly detailed individual pieces of apparel on mannequins in a scrolling format. That lets shoppers glide from one to the next so as to highlight design elements, such as ruffles and seams. The addition of an Adobe Flash-based checkout process this year brings even this utilitarian function in line with the smooth-gliding navigation of the site’s merchandising features.

“This site is all about the look and feel, and how they put together the outfits is very clever. They make it a lot more fun for people,” says Lauren Freedman, president of research and consulting firm The E-Tailing Group. “It’s not laid out like a traditional site-it’s got some pizzazz.” Freedman also praises the display of clothing on mannequins on category pages as a way to supply better product information, and how the site’s merchandising supports its strong brand story.

“We are always looking for different ways to present products to the customers,” Robinson says. “And we’re always focused on further enhancing the customer experience.” Back to top


No sweat
Catalog and online retailer Athleta aims to show that fitness and fashion go well together.

Retailers often use images of stunning models in exotic backdrops to showcase their products, but what has struck a chord with customers is Athleta Inc.’s images of real-life women athletes.

“You go pretty deep into the web site and you can find inspirational imagery,” says Jed Smith, vice president of marketing and creative at Athleta. “Our customers tell us on a frequent basis that they’re inspired by it.”

Athleta’s target customers are women between the ages of 25 and 55, and they range from hardcore athletes to women who are active and on the go. They’re invariably busy, and Athleta works to make its site navigation efficient. Shoppers can search according to their different needs, such as by activity like yoga, tennis, cycling and hiking, or by type of item.

Product pages provide recommendations of coordinating pieces of apparel. “I like the recommendation of tops likely to go with the pants on the page. It’s helpful for the consumer and should increase average order size,” says Shari Altman, president of Altman Direct, a marketing consulting agency.

In addition, Athleta.com offers a shop by outfit that provides full details on every piece of a featured outfit on a single page.

In September, Gap Inc. announced that it was buying Athleta for about $150 million in cash. Gap says buying Athleta will help it tap the growing $31 billion women’s athletic clothing business in the U.S. The Athleta apparel line will take up a fifth tab on Gap’s e-commerce site labeled Universality. The tab system lets shoppers browse and buy from all of Gap’s retail sites-Gap, shoe store Piperlime, Banana Republic and Old Navy-in one cart and for one shipping fee.

“While we have an exciting growth curve, what gets us jazzed up is the Gap Universality platform, because a huge range of customers will now be exposed to us,” says Smith.

The companies say they are still working on the timeline to incorporate Athleta into the Universality platform. Back to top


Always a brand new bag
When the founders of Avelle.com (formerly BagBorroworSteal.com) observed their wives and girlfriends borrowing each other’s designer handbags, they figured there was a business in that activity-if they could find the right model. Shortly thereafter they launched an e-commerce site that has proved them right by growing into one of the largest luxury accessory rental venues online.
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