Target and Toys R Us posted overall sales declines during the holidays.
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Store shoppers new to the web receive a favorites list of their store purchases, making it easier for them to shop online for the first time, Devine said.
Few retailers, however, are personalizing web sites based on customers` shopping behavior, said Lauren Freedman, president of The E-Tailing Group Inc. Only 7% of retailers are dynamically presenting products based on past purchases, and 58% have not integrated personalization techniques into their web sites or e-mail marketing programs, according to an E-Tailing Group survey of 250 e-commerce executives.
The survey found, however, that 76% of retailers are using some degree of customer segmentation for marketing, with the most popular means of segmentation being transaction data, product categories and demographics.
"Personalized shopping experiences on the web are still a long way from reality for most of the merchants surveyed," Freedman said. "This is the ultimate promise of the web and must be part of any strategy."
Where rich media = happier customers
Making the Shopping Visit Compelling with Rich Media
Ranjana Sharma, e-commerce manager, Anthropologie
Rich media at Anthropologie.com entices shoppers to stay longer and spend more, Ranjana Sharma, head of e-commerce at Anthropologie, retailer of women`s apparel and home furnishings, told the Internet Retailer Conference. "We cater to the shopper`s curiosity," Sharma said. "The more time she spends on our site, the more she`ll spend with us."
To illustrate the power of rich media, Sharma logged on to Anthropologie.com, projected onto a screen, clicked on an image of the same purse she carried into the conference and zoomed in on the image`s details. She noted how the zoomed web site image could focus on the embedded jewels in the handbag, making it easier to see details than if a shopper were looking at the actual bag from a short distance.
All products on Anthropologie.com can be clicked on to create a rich-media pop-up. The pop-up allows the shopper to zoom in or out, see front and back views, change colors, and, on some products, see the product on a model or in a room setting. Products appearing on models can also be clicked to change the product`s color. Models often are shown in a complementary setting, such as a country or city scene.
The multiple rich media options from Scene7 are designed to provide customized interactions that suit the multiple interests of shoppers, Sharma said. "We want to let the shopper build a relationship with us on her terms," she said. "We want to give her the control to interact with us."
Marketing for Success
Searching for customers
Search Engine Marketing: Managing Search for ROI
Ray Allen, president, American Meadows
Pinny Gniwisch, executive vice president, Ice.com
Managing search for ROI means getting results for what`s spent on search marketing. And getting better results than competitors doesn`t require spending more money than they do, said Ray Allen, president of American Meadows, and Pinny Gniwisch, executive vice president of Ice.com. The two mapped their two paths to search marketing success and both demonstrated that developing a deep knowledge of the language that sells as well as marketing tactics beyond the obvious are worth the effort.
Allen, whose early career was as copywriter and advertising agency owner, said too much written web content is "sloppy copy." Interfering with getting the most out of search at the lowest possible price are marketers` obsession with page rank and content that`s not current. "Writing copy that sells," he said, "is hard, unglamorous work. There`s no button to push."
Allen cited a number of ways to boost search-driven sales that don`t involve higher bids on keywords. "Competitive copy costs no more," he said. For example, he suggested reading competitors` listings before submitting to a search engine, then writing a listing that improves on them. Allen also suggested rewriting with wording that avoids the truncated effect of listings that may cut a too-long product description mid-sentence by switching from bold type.
Gniwisch cited the importance of expanding keyword buys. "It`s the quickest, most effective way of increasing traffic," he said. But before buying keywords, marketers should calculate ROI, with knowledge of margins, marketing costs, shipping costs and the cost of fraud and returns. "Monitor ROI for each keyword and compare cost versus sales. Then decide if it`s worth it," he said.
Keeping company with the right people
Affiliate Marketing: Playing to Your Strengths
Laurie Barkman, mgr. of marketing, American Eagle Outfitters
American Eagle Outfitters faced a challenge: it wanted tight control of its brand, incremental sales without increasing markdown, and new online customers without having to leverage its stores to get them. The answer was an online affiliate program that`s attracted a customer audience of which 40% are new to the brand, Laurie Barkman, manager of marketing, told the conference.
AE.com is the online arm of youth-focused apparel retailer American Eagle, which operates 1,000 stores in the U.S. and Canada. AE.com is the retailer`s largest store and the number one marketing face of the company, Barkman said. "Our success has been driven by the structure of the program," said Barkman. The program is outsourced, a time-saver for the retailer`s small marketing staff. To maintain brand control, the program is closed, meaning affiliates join by invitation only. American Eagle approves every affiliate and affiliates must agree to terms, such as a prohibition on bidding on search engines on American Eagle trademarks. Other keys to the winning affiliate program include: establishing metrics and monitoring for success; including affiliates in marketing plans and budgets; and focusing the bulk of attention on the 20% of affiliates that produce 80% of affiliate sales.
By design, the affiliate program remains small, yet Barkman said the company is pleased with returns. In addition to the 30% of customers that come to the site through affiliate links that are new to American Eagle, affiliate program buyers show a strong conversion rate and have a low incidence of coupon use.