November 21, 2008, 12:00 AM

Apparel & Accessories

(Page 7 of 9) works hard to tie consumers to its brand by vividly showcasing styles and offering insight into the inspiration behind them. The Design Inspiration section, for example, introduces creative director Fred Allard, offers a virtual tour of the retailer’s design studio and houses a video in which Allard discusses the season’s hot apparel and footwear trends.

“Yes we are a fashion brand, but we want to be a brand that is not off-putting or aloof but approachable,” says Ron Offir, president of e-commerce for Jones Apparel Group, which operates

Visitors also can explore styles through a “look book” of featured items and order the coordinating pieces of a “look,” such as boots and a matching handbag, directly from the pages. The retailer also recently launched a pre-order feature that enables consumers to reserve a style of shoes before it’s available for purchase.

In another move to better serve web customers, the retailer began in June fulfilling online orders from retail locations as well as warehouses. The new system has reduced backorders and helped boost conversions, Offir says.

But despite several improvements, there’s still work that can be done, says Anne Brouwer senior partner at retail consultancy McMillan Doolittle LLP.

“For the true shoe lover, there are some serious shortfalls against other shoe sites,” Brouwer says. She points out missing details, such as showing the materials used for uppers and heels, frequently missing specifications on heel heights, and no product care information. In addition, there are only three shots of each shoe instead of as many as six or seven on competitors’ sites, she says.

Nevertheless, has made great strides in e-commerce over the past year and has big ambitions for the future including a possible overseas expansion and a bolder approach to style that’s “a bit more fashion-forward,” Offir says.

He no doubt hopes they will all be steps in the right direction. Back to top

48 hours, 500,000 views
What makes people want to watch a video online? That was the question Roxy staff members asked before they dove into the sea of video. Roxy’s answer? Something very unique.

Roxy had something quite unique: women surfers. The retailer sells apparel and accessories aimed at women who enjoy water and snow sports. And compared to their male counterparts, Roxy says, women surfers don’t get much attention. Roxy had plenty of video of the women of its Association of Professional Surfers surf team, so it decided to get it online. And not just on its site, but on the social network giant YouTube. The hope was to build brand awareness and site traffic.

It got both, and then some.

YouTube home page editorial content managers know unique sells, and one day one of the managers came across a Roxy video of women surfing. YouTube posted the video on its home page one weekend earlier this year and 48 hours later views of the video had increased from 2,000 to more than half a million. Suddenly a lot more people knew the Roxy brand.

“Young girls are on social networks almost every minute of their waking Internet hours. So it’s a perfect match,” says Chris Todd, director of online marketing at Roxy, which also boasts dynamic Facebook and MySpace pages, thus covering the Big Three of social networking. “We want to be part of their social networking consumption. It gives us an opportunity to let girls know when there is a seasonal change or something special.”

In addition to the surf team, Roxy sponsors other outdoors and healthy lifestyle events, activities well suited to video, Todd adds. “Through these programs there’s a lot of content that is very appealing visually and very inspiring,” he says, “and those are stories easily as important if not more important than letting girls know we have a new product line. So social networking is a multifaceted communication.”

Comments Maris Daugherty, a senior consultant at retail consulting firm J.C. Williams Group Ltd.: “Roxy is quite clever when it comes to social networking tactics.” Back to top

‘Don’t wait, innovate’
There are plenty of web sites that sell shoes. In an effort to stand out in the crowd, last year introduced product videos of shoes, an item that might not seem to cry out for live-action presentation.

But after the first 10 videos proved successful, the company added more, and now offers over 100 videos, which can be viewed on product pages or by clicking the “Product Videos” link. Shoeline plans to increase that total to 500 by the spring of 2009 and ultimately plans to offer videos of every product, from business-casual loafers to black-tie dress shoes. The company also posts the videos to its YouTube and Facebook pages.

The videos, typically about 15 seconds long, show a close-up, floor-to-knee view of a model standing and making a few simple movements, showing the shoe from different angles.”We’re trying to answer one key question often asked in the buying process: How does the shoe look on the foot?” says Frank Malsbenden, vice president and general manager of parent company Vision Retailing Inc. “Shoes can look different in pictures than they do in person. They really come alive on the foot,” he says.

So far, Shoeline customers seem to agree-conversion rates are 44% higher on average for products with video. Shoeline still has work to do on the videos, including adding text that describes each clip on the video product page, but Malsbenden says he’s not one to wait until a feature is perfect. “We don’t wait. We innovate.”

Video is an extension of the retailer’s effort to make the product page informative, while keeping it simple. “The goal is to answer as many of the customer’s concerns as possible,” says Malsbenden. Product pages also feature a “return-o-meter,” which lets visitors know how often the item is returned.

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