May 27, 2010, 1:39 PM

Recession-busters

(Page 2 of 3)

The manufacturer also upgraded site navigation to help shoppers locate products by sport and gender, and converted its product images to digital photographs that provide a more detailed image to consumers.

"We are showing more on-field use of our products and that has helped consumers understand the use, form and fit of the products," he says.

Most of the navigation work is done in-house, but in late 2009 Under Armour worked with Allurent Inc. to add new features on the site, such as enabling consumers to shop by outfit.

Making up for lost time

LuLuLemon
LuLuLemon (No. 398), a Vancouver-based manufacturer and multichannel retailer with more than 124 stores in the U.S., Canada, Australia and Hong Kong, launched e-commerce only in the second quarter of 2009. But the retailer quickly found that e-commerce resonated with its core customers: affluent women with active lifestyles who are interested in fitness and sports. As a result, last year its e-commerce revenue of about C$18.2 million (U.S. $17.8 million) accounted for around 4% of total sales of C$452.9 million (U.S. $443.9 million).

"We have seen our e-commerce business really take off," LuLuLemon CEO Christine Day told Wall Street analysts on the company's recent year-end earnings call.

About 62% of all web shoppers at LuLuLemon.com are female and 87% are younger than 44, says web demographics firm Compete Inc. LuLuLemon's Internet customers also are affluent–40% have annual household income over $100,000, says Compete. LuLuLemon was able to make a strong debut in e-commerce because its best web customers are spreading the word about why they shop the site, says Paula Rosenbloom, managing partner at Retail Systems Research LLC.

CATALOGERS

A path to higher web sales

Benchmark Brands
A sour economy, rising print costs and escalating postal rates thwarted e-commerce development for many Top 500 catalogers last year. As a group, the Top 500 catalogers saw their combined web sales drop 3.1% to $18.32 billion in 2009 from $18.91 billion in 2008.

But in a shaky economic environment, Benchmark Brands Inc. (No. 183), which operates FootSmart.com, used targeted marketing and more effective comparison shopping engine management to grow web sales by 11% to $66.8 million in 2009. "We figured out how to keep moving forward," says CEO Alan Beychok.

The first key to growing web sales was doing a better job with marketing, especially e-mail, to reach its best online customers. Benchmark created 30 distinct e-mail messages that targeted lost sales opportunities, such as when a returning customer puts items in a shopping cart, then leaves. "We created personalized abandon cart e-mails that were triggered at one day, three days and seven days with a series of offers and merchandise recommendations based on their browsing behavior and items in their cart," says Beychok. "More segmented marketing helped us prevent or recover more lost sales opportunities."

By doing a better job of supplying comparison shopping sites with faster and more comprehensive data, the revenue from comparison engines improved by 80% in 2009, says Beychok. "Everything we did with better segmented marketing or improving the quality of our data feeds last year was focused on customer acquisition," he says. "We were very granular at looking at what we could do to increase web sales and we weren't afraid to get our hands dirty."

New web tools mean more sales

Boston Proper
Women's apparel and accessories retailer Boston Proper Inc. finished 2009 with a flourish that saw web sales rise 10% on the year. A site redesign and new technology tools that met customer requests were key factors in boosting sales in a tight economy, says Margaret Moraskie, senior vice president of marketing at Boston Proper (No. 142).

"Our customers asked for back views, zoom and larger images," Moraskie says. "They also wanted to move items from their wish list to the shopping cart and back again."

In addition to fulfilling those requests, BostonProper.com added a perpetual shopping cart that's visible from page to page. The redesigned web site was built on an e-commerce platform from Fry Inc. with new rich media technology from Fluid Inc. Boston Proper handled the design work in-house.

THE BANNER YEAR CLUBS

The best of the rest

Amazon.com
It pays to be diverse, as demonstrated by Amazon.com (No. 1), which grew 14 times faster than the e-commerce market last year. In 2009, international sales accounted for a bigger share of Amazon's total revenue. International net sales grew 31% to $11.68 billion and represented 48% of revenue, up from 47% in the prior year. Amazon's 2009 North American sales increased 25% to $12.82 billion and accounted for 52% of all revenue, down from 53% in 2008. The number of customers who have purchased from Amazon in the past year increased 19% to 105 million worldwide, the retailer says.

Jones Retail Corp.
It was hard to keep up with Jones online last year. Web sales for branded apparel designer, wholesaler and retailer Jones (No. 219) were $51.5 million, a 61% increase from $32.0 million in 2008. This year its Bandolino e-commerce site will be replaced with a Shoe Woo web site, which Jones says will offer shoe brands the company has not previously sold online. Brands sold on the site will include Bandolino, Joan & David and Enzo Angiolini. Jones says selling those brands online will create "another great opportunity for growth in the Internet business."

Redcats USA
Catering to the base was the key to helping Redcats USA Inc. (No. 31) grow web sales 15.9% to $714.9 million from $616.9 million in 2008. Redcats, which operates Avenue.com, WomanWithin.com, Roamans.com, JessicaLondon.com and other e-commerce sites, says it was motivated women shoppers and established brands that drove growth online. "Internet sales of plus-size brands were the driving force," says Redcats Group CEO Jean-Michel Noir. "Redcats is in the throes of an in-depth transformation from a catalog sales group to an international group of multichannel brands capitalizing on the development of the web."

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