August 21, 2009, 12:00 AM

Christopher & Banks eyes the holiday season with a multichannel strategy

New online gift centers on the women’s apparel retailer’s e-commerce sites are increasing click-through rates while also expanding product offerings in stores, where shoppers can check computer monitors for suggested gift arrangements.

Multichannel women’s apparel and accessories retailer Christopher & Banks Corp. has deployed new online gift centers that are increasing click-through rates on its e-commerce sites. They also are expanding product offerings in stores, where shoppers can check computer monitors for suggested gift arrangements.

The multichannel strategy, launched earlier this year, led to higher click-through rates in a special Mother’s Day gift center on ChristopherBanks.com, the retailer’s main e-commerce site, and cjbanks.com, its site specializing in plus-size women’s apparel. “It also drove more store sales,” says Monica Dahl, senior vice president of planning, allocation and e-commerce.

She adds, “2009 will be the first holiday shopping season that we’ve had this multichannel functionality, and we believe there will be a myriad of benefits.” Christopher & Banks’ operates its e-commerce sites on a platform developed and hosted by GSI Commerce Inc.

The retailer is also beginning to test some self-service online kiosks in stores, in addition to existing monitors on checkout counters that promote displays of merchandise not available in stores.

Bringing the e-commerce experience into stores, where shoppers can place online orders for items not available in the store, Dahl says, is helping to keep customers satisfied without changing the retailer’s strategy of maintaining limited in-store inventory. “This allows us to say ‘yes’ to every customer, and to show them entire assortments of products they otherwise wouldn’t have seen in the store,” she says.

The new multichannel strategy is part of a broader strategy of developing multichannel cooperation among employees and executives in store, e-commerce and corporate headquarters operations, Dahl says. The top e-commerce executive who is also responsible for corporate-wide planning and merchandise allocation, Dahl works closely with Gary Thompson, senior vice president of store operations, and their boss, CEO Lorna Nagler, on ensuring an effective multichannel shopping experience for customers.

Dahl adds that all levels of employees in the store and e-commerce operations also contribute to the multichannel program’s success. For example, store employees suggested displaying a “Look Book” mini paper catalog in the store to complement the merchandise arrangements presented on the e-commerce sites, providing in-store shoppers more opportunity to browse for products.

In addition, as store clerks and shoppers use in-store online access to shop the retailer’s web sites, Christopher & Banks is analyzing the clickstreams of that traffic to learn about customers’ interests and, in turn, modify merchandise buying and display strategies, Dahl says.

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