Online sales for J.Jill are growing and hit $228 million for the 12 months ended Oct. 29.
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The human factor
The Timberland Co.’s goal with Timberland.com is straightforward: “We want to provide easy access to the breadth and depth of our product line and our brand,” says Tim Diaz, director of electronic commerce for the outdoor shoe, apparel and accessory manufacturer. “Most people know us for our footwear, but we’re also in apparel and accessories. We don’t want customers to have to fish around to find those products.”
Part of what makes that work is Timberland’s practice of using humans to create cross-sells on the web. While other sites also do not use technology for cross-selling, Timberland is unusual in that it looks for staff with Timberland store experience. “We start with the belief that cross-selling is not Internet specific,” Diaz says.
The site reflects that human touch, says Geoff Wissman, consultant with Retail Forward Inc. “This is a well thought-through site where you can quickly get to what you need,” he says. “That indicates they know their customers and how they shop. They obviously put a lot of effort into this site based on what they know from their stores.”
The site creates an experience beyond shopping. Prominent on the home page is a link to Timberlandserve.com, which lists volunteer opportunities across the country. In addition, the site includes detail about Timberland’s products, which, besides on the web, it sells at 75 Timberland stores as well as specialty and department stores. “We want to make sure people explore the products,” Diaz says. “People usually go to a manufacturer’s site to research information. We want to make that as easy as we can.”
“Easy” is the byword at Timberland.com, Wissman says. “This is a highly functional, easy to use, easy to shop site,” he says. “Everything is above the fold; you never have to scroll down. That makes it more likely that customers will read the information.” Wissman also gives high marks to organization. “They present products in numerous different ways,” he says. “Customers can shop by activity, product or category. That all goes back to shop-ability.”
In addition, Timberland makes great use of the web to project its brand, Wissman says. “They use the web to sell product they sell in the store; it’s not an outlet to push merchandise that doesn’t sell elsewhere,” he says. “That’s good from a brand point of view.”
Timberland was a relative late-comer to selling on the web, launching an e-commerce site in May 2001 after having a brochure site since 1999. “We missed a lot of those ‘gotta-haves,’ like spinning shoes and Flash intros,” Diaz says, “which is good because our site has always been all about the products.”
Unique Visitors (monthly)
Broadvision through Chelsea Interactive ASP
Chase Merchant Services
Verity through Chelsea Interactive ASP
Search Engine Management
When Dad knows best
Long before he transformed his offline licensed t-shirt wholesale business into an online retail store, TShirtKing.com president Bill Broadbent was hearing about the wonders of the web from his father. A mathematics professor involved in the Internet early on, the senior Broadbent would talk of the web’s “unlimited floor space.” But it wasn’t until Broadbent was looking for a way out of a business problem in the mid-1990s that the message sank in.
A $400,000 order from a previous department store buyer was returned by the new buyer; not the first time churn among the ranks of store buyers had created problems. “We had to find new buyers for the shirts, and I was frustrated with the whole wholesale-to-retail angle. Sometimes buyers would have time to see only about a third of our designs. So I logged on and started building the site. It took a month and the first day we were up, we had an order,” Broadbent says. By 1998, Broadbent’s wholesale business had changed into the retail-only TShirt-King.com.
Broadbent has leveraged the web’s unique reach to capitalize on his company’s strength: a knowledge of licensing developed over 25 years of selling licensed t-shirts starting with the likes of Arlo Guthrie and The Band. “Licensing is a difficult world if you don’t know anything about it,” says Broadbent. “And bands are still the toughest.”
Today, TShirtKing.com books millions in revenue annually and pulls in as many as 1 million visitors a month from 30 countries. Not only does the web sales model allow it to display each of its 2,000 licensed designs, but it can re-merchandise and change the display instantly as needed.
Broadbent says next year TShirt.King.com will mail its first catalog to part of its house list. Given the rising cost of pay-per-click advertising, a postcard mailing, brochure or even the small catalog of best-sellers that’s planned is starting to look like a more cost-effective way to advertise the products and the web site, Broadbent says. “It will give people something to carry to school or work. We’ll use the catalog as much to advertise the site as for sales,” he adds.
In line with his father’s earlier vision, Broadbent is finding the web the perfect way to sell his product. “Merchandising in a store was always tough to handle. The product might just go on a rack where people don’t see it,” he says. “This way, it’s all up to us. For the price of one good space in a decent mall, we can reach just about everybody in the country.”