Target and Toys R Us posted overall sales declines during the holidays.
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Lilly Pulitzer, maker of upscale, brightly colored apparel and accessories, was late to e-commerce out of concern for channel conflict with department stores, 75 independently owned Via Shops that sell Lilly Pulitzer merchandise, and its own 22 stores. After deciding that e-commerce would strengthen its brand and improve overall sales, the company launched an appropriately colorful web store in November 2008. Product descriptions are chatty, as is the site’s blog, and the retailer has attracted nearly 35,000 fans on Facebook. The e-commerce site features cross-channel elements, such as a Let Lilly Find It button. Shoppers click it when items are out of stock online and trigger a search at stores and Via Shops. If a shop carries the item, an employee contacts the customer to complete the sale.
That’s who Net-A-Porter.com is aimed at-women who are busy, but not too busy to pay attention to dressing à la mode. Founded by former fashion editor Natalie Massenet, the slick site strives to provide multi-tasking women with all the information they need to buy designer fashion on the web. More than 50 runway videos include commentaries suggesting how items might be worn. The site is “a unique mix of content and commerce,” says Alison Loehnis, vice president of sales and marketing. “We have a team of fashion advisors who try on every item we sell so that we can inform customers about the size and fit of everything from jean rise to leg opening, ring circumferences to headband widths,” she says. “And it’s all detailed on the size and fit tabs on every product page.”
Eyewear and apparel manufacturer Oakley Inc. launched OakleyVault.com in July 2009 to sell discounted merchandise, but the site maintains the company’s trademark hip style. “For us, Oakley is a premium brand so we want to shy away from a site that looks like a discount site. If you go to our Oakley Vault stores, they are consistent with an Oakley store,” says Ken Loh, web director. On the home page, shoppers can search by price, discount percentage or new arrivals. All products show the discounted price along with the item’s original price. The company sees OakleyVault.com as an entry point for younger customers who may find Oakley’s high-end items out of reach and as a way to introduce the company’s other lines, such as apparel, footwear and accessories, to more consumers.
Apparel retailer Old Navy serves up shopping fun with OldNavy Weekly.com, offering coupons in limited numbers every week on a first-come, first-served basis. Registered shoppers can click on the page to uncover hidden printable in-store coupons, choose one per week, and share it with a Facebook friend. Parent company Gap Inc. says the feature has boosted same-store sales. Also keeping shoppers engaged is a weekly calendar reminder of the next circular posting that goes to the shopper’s e-mail inbox. Old Navy reports a major lift in site activity each Friday, after the circular posts. The site also features a deeply discounted item of the week and sends mobile alerts to registered customers. With clever tools that keep shoppers tuned in for more, OldNavy.com stars in Gap’s e-commerce lineup.
The Internet has become a video place-and retailers who realize that are among the most successful. OnlineShoes.com, the $95 million-a-year web operation of a Seattle shoe store, is a leader in video, hosting hundreds of videos at its web site and at YouTube. And they prove how video promotes sales. 5% of shoppers click from product to video; they convert to buyers 45% more often than other shoppers. “We are finding true commercial gains and a return on our investment in online videos,” says Peter Leech, chief marketing officer. OnlineShoes began with videos on product pages, but now also hosts the 12- to 30-second clips at OnlineShoesTV.com. It also now posts videos in its blog Get in Gear. “There’s nothing static about launching a video program-something is always changing,” Leech says.
RueLaLa.com depends on event marketing, and it works. As a members-only site, RueLaLa.com sells upscale fashion, accessories, footwear, jewelry and other luxury brand merchandise at discount prices and through limited-time sales. RueLaLa.com is a fast-growing e-commerce property. In just the last 12 months the site has added nearly 800,000 members and in the third quarter of 2009 grew sales year over year by 383% to $28 million from $5.8 million. “Our marketing centers on daily e-mail alerts to members to create a sense of anticipation, urgency and excitement to buy,” says Retail Convergence Inc. executive vice president Mark McWeeny. Turns out RueLaLa is such a hot property that e-commerce provider GSI Commerce this fall bought it, GSI saying it sees a great future in online private sales.