March 31, 2010, 12:00 AM

Getting web feet

(Page 3 of 3)

Going forward, the brand will continue to seek ways to leverage the online channel, he adds. “One of the challenges we see in doing business online is how we can replicate the clienteling we do offline in stores, where we’ll have a stylist setting appointments with customers and where store associates might have six outfits prepared when a customer arrives,” Graham says. “We’re looking into how we can do something similar online with our CRM and personalization systems.”

While such endeavors will generate more direct sales online, he says, James Perse sees its overall e-commerce activity as a way to build more followers of its brand offline as well as online. “Our e-commerce sales are incremental growth but not at the expense of our traditional retailers,” Graham says. “Selling online creates new customers that can cross to other retailing channels.”

Web sales also produce data that manufacturers can use to make the case for more space in stores.

At Crocs, which operates on the Demandware e-commerce platform, its success with the e-commerce channel is beginning to generate ways to get more of products into retail stores, Ladd says. The information it has already gained on how consumers shop across its product line-for example, how a woman who buys classic clogs for her kids may also purchase Crocs boots for herself and sandals for her husband-is proving valuable in efforts to get support from its retail partners as well as within Crocs to try something new.

But Crocs’ strategy is not just about retailers selling more of its products in stores-the footwear maker also is embarking on a plan aimed at helping e-retailers sell more Crocs goods through their web sites.

“Phase Two of our e-commerce rollout is to create a drop-ship program with key retailer customers that allows them to merchandise our entire product line on their own web sites without having to take possession of the inventory in their distribution centers,” Ladd says. “We’ll accept their forwarded orders and ship to the consumer on their behalf.”

Crocs’ program illustrates that manufacturers are less willing to let retail chains decide which of their products consumers get to see-not when the Internet provides manufacturers with a way to reach consumers directly.

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