June 25, 2010, 2:00 PM

Personalized web site content gives retailers an edge

AmericanApparel.com tailors content based on shoppers’ locations.

Lead Photo

Personalizing web site content can give retailers a competitive edge.

For instance, at AmericanApparel.com, which sells a wide variety of clothing and accessories to fashion-conscious youths worldwide, personalizing store locators on its home page is one way to make it quicker for shoppers to find a bricks-and-mortar store.  

For many multichannel retailers, store locators are given second-hand status on their e-commerce sites. Shoppers often have to click on a link to a separate page and then type in a city or ZIP code to find the nearest retail location.

That’s not the case at AmericanApparel.com, which has more than 260 retail locations worldwide. When a shopper lands on the clothing retailer’s home page, a list of local retail sites automatically pops up on the right side of the page.

“We are an online retailer as well as a bricks-and-mortar retailer,” says web director Raz Schionning. “Many of our customers who shop online may not even know there’s a store in their neighborhood. Other than relegating store information to just behind the link that says store locator, we actually proactively push out to people visiting our online store right on the home page where they can find a nearby store.”

American Apparel began offering personalized store location information about nine months ago using Internet protocol intelligence and geolocation technology from vendor Digital Element.

“Currently, we use it anywhere on our site where you’d be looking for a retail location,” Schionning says. “Instead of asking customers to input their ZIP code, for example, we take the IP intelligence data and show them.”

Shoppers can override the personalized store locator if they’re looking for stores in other geographical locations, he says.

AmericanApparel.com also uses personalization in promoting events at local stores. Only site visitors living near retail locations will see promotions for those stores.

“We may have promotions and events specific to a certain geographic location, so we have zones on the page that actually tie into the IP intelligence data and will display the appropriate messaging,” Schionning says. “For example, we may be running a specific type of promotional event only in Honolulu, so only customers that come to our web site from Honolulu are going to see that.”

Schionning says it is hard to measure what effect geographically personalizing store locators and promotions is having on driving traffic to its retail stores.

“To us, this really falls into the category, it’s so obvious that you don’t really have to spend too much time analyzing it,” Schionning says. “Putting this kind of information in front of customers without making them dig for it because it’s geographically relevant to them is clearly going to work better than having them see ‘click here to see geographically relevant offers. Put in your ZIP code.’”

American Apparel plans to expand its use of geographic personalization.

“There are so many ways in which we can leverage it,” Schionning says. “If you think about pretty much any aspect of a page that could be targeted, you can have a layer of geographic targeting. If it’s cold in Chicago we can say all these metro areas have cold weather coming through. In all those metro areas we can show parkas.”

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