January 19, 2001, 12:00 AM

The secret of Victoria's Secret Web success

If anyone needs a legitimate reason for viewing the Victoria's Secret Web site on company computers during work hours, the success of its debut may provide some cover. Many retailers may be looking at the site to help them determine what makes a successful Web site.

The successful interactive showing of Victoriaâs Secret annual fashion show may provide a blueprint that other online retailers can follow. Granted that most retailers do not sell the kinds of goods that attract viewers to the Victoriaâs Secret site, thereâ still something to be learned: The right concept, promoted in the right way to the right audience can create a huge Internet-retailing success.

Victoriaâs Secret promoted its Web site selling women's intimate apparel in Super Bowl commercials three days before the debut, and in full-page newspaper ads.

Technical problems

Victoriaâs Secret then unveiled a video fashion show featuring model Tyra Banks. More than 1 million Internet users viewed the show while millions more tried in frustration to get a look themselves. Many of those who did get onto the site complained about poor sound quality and blurred pictures.

The next day, the press was full of stories about how millions of people were denied access to the Victoriaâs Secret site÷which in turn probably generated more traffic. Executives of The Limitedâs Intimate Brands, which operates Victoriaâs Secret, turned what should have been a PR disaster into a marketing success. ãWe were expecting a phenomenal response, but not that big,ä says a spokewoman. ãThis shows you can take an event and blow it out on the Internet.ä

In the two weeks after the event aired, another 2.5 million people viewed a version of the fashion show archived on the Victoriaâs Secret Web site.

And that ongoing interest is generating more than just sheer numbers of curiosity seekers.

Itâs generating additional Web sales for Victoriaâs Secret, especially among men. ãThere are men shopping at Victoriaâs Secret online that would never show up in a store,ä says Peter C. Clemente, vice president, Cyber Dialogue, a New York Internet market research firm. ãThe Web lets them shop from the privacy of home.ä

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