November 21, 2008, 12:00 AM

Apparel & Accessories

(Page 8 of 9)

Shoeline makes it easy for the customers to feel good about their purchases. “One of the first things I noticed,” says Mark Lee, principal at consulting firm Mark Lee Group, “was ‘Free Shipping. No Sales Tax. Easy Returns.’ This strong statement takes away buying objections right out of the gate.” Back to top


Action-oriented
This is a web site that is all about the brand and knowing what its customers want.

And if one word could describe UnderArmour.com’s customers, that word might be active. They are young, hip athletic individuals who want action. And action is what they get from UnderArmour.com.

Through the use of video, UnderArmour.com shows real athletes using each product the way it was intended-complete with beads of sweat pouring down the athletes’ faces as they struggle to persevere. There are no pretty models smiling at the camera here.

“The site is visually appealing and the product looks great,” says Lee Diercks, partner and managing director at consulting firm Clear Thinking Group LLC. “This appeals to a customer with an active lifestyle and it puts a lot of emphasis on its brand.”

Diercks points out, however, that by offering so many features, UnderArmour.com may be slowing down the shopping experience. In a test, Diercks found some pages were slow to load.

Still, there is a lot to see. UnderArmour.com, the e-commerce site of apparel manufacturer Under Armour Inc., provides an archive of current and past TV commercials, video outtakes from football games and tryout camps, and director’s cut video from commercial shoots. Users can shop for products featured in that content by clicking through to the e-commerce site where they can purchase the outfits head to toe.

Understanding customer tastes and desires facilitates that seamless experience. Take the site’s platform redesign late in 2007. The company surveyed 50,000 customers, using their feedback to focus the design on simplified navigation, deeper product detail and description, and the ability to see products close up. For instance, great care was taken to show details of products.

Along with its commitment to young sports enthusiasts, UnderArmour.com delivers a seamless shopping experience for a wide range of customers. Parents or grandparents of young athletes are likely to check the site for gift suggestions. For them, there are quick and easy steps to get to the gift card section where they can make a purchase without knowing what specific product the recipient will want. Back to top


Sharing the goods
Undergear is well known for its stable of muscular male models clad in underwear, swimwear and workout wear. It presents the men in bold, striking photographs in settings around the world. Unlike most retailers, Undergear wants shoppers to purloin its photos-and they do, sharing the attractive images with friends, posting them on blogs and personal social network pages, and in the process extending the Undergear brand to a wider and wider audience.

To better enable sharing and to get the word out about Undergear fashion and news, the retailer this year launched robust pages on Facebook and MySpace and galleries on Flickr. And it began monitoring buzz about Undergear on blogs and reaching out to influential bloggers.

What’s more, it found reason to make a move on another giant social network after it launched online video this year. It now has a channel on YouTube showcasing videos of its photo-shoots, from the streets of New York to the tropical islands of Turks and Caicos.

“The videos really bring the models’ personalities to life; they show the models being very playful. That to me is key branding,” says Robin E. Baskin, vice president of e-commerce at Hanover Direct Inc., which operates brands including Undergear. “Video is a big part of the engagements we have on the social networks, going from zero to 100,000 views in a very short span of time. Online video is highly important to us moving forward.”

And Undergear used another technology to foster online sharing of imagery-it created a widget that enables shoppers to place their faces over those of Undergear models so the shoppers can be the stars. The widget launch coincided with a contest that shoppers entered to become a real-life Undergear model. Shoppers voted online and at special events across the country.

“Undergear.com offers a robust customer experience for the trendiest of men’s casual wear,” says Maris Daugherty, a senior consultant at retail consulting firm J.C. Williams Group Ltd. The retailer, Daugherty adds, clearly has adopted the best practices of Internet retailing for a niche market. Back to top


A subculture online
Vans is more than a shoemaker-it’s a subculture. Vans fans are fiercely loyal to the maker of wildly designed and custom-made shoes. And they love to talk about it.

The retailer began to see customers writing about their Vans and associated pastimes, including music, art, skateboarding and surfing. These fans were posting on blogs and social network pages their stories, design reviews and more.

There was buzz online, and Vans decided it needed to listen better, and ultimately respond. So this year it began a formal social media monitoring program, using the services of Cymfony Inc., to scrutinize what bloggers and social networkers were saying. Sometimes it joins in the conversation, and sometimes it uses what it hears to generate posts on its own blog.

In addition to the blog, Vans operates online forums to further discussion on its site. And it provides a plethora of online videos to entertain customers.

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