Get ’em in the door

The door to Lane Bryant stores often opens through cyberspace.

While the plus-size women’s fashion retailer doesn’t sell any merchandise on its Web site,, the site still generates sales.

“Through the initiatives of getting customers in with sale announcements and coupons, we’ve been able to, through those net sales, pay for the Web,” says Jennifer Campbell, Lane Bryant’s marketing director. “The creative development, updating and overhauls have basically paid for themselves, which is terrific.”

In December alone, the site generated $40,000 in net sales, she says. Since the site started in March 1997, Lane Bryant has netted more than $1 million from Web visitors, judging from the Internet-generated coupons used. Campbell points out that figure doesn’t take into account customers who come into the store prompted by the Web site even without a coupon. The site boasts an average of 90,000 hits a month, up from 1,000 its first few months in cyberspace.

Lane Bryant, a Reynoldsburg-based division of The Limited, chose MC2 to develop the site because MC2 is local and allows Lane Bryant to update the site regularly with ease. In addition, MC2 has a strategic alliance with SBC Advertising, giving Lane Bryant an added benefit of marketing services rather than simply the Web site development.

Based on the immediate and positive response to the initial site, Campbell says it was obvious the Web could provide a new avenue for the company to draw customers.

Here’s how the site accomplishes that goal:

  • A fashion tour leads the customer through the essentials of any given season, offering a feel for the merchandise available.
  • A section called “Fashion Consultant” allows the customer to choose from the spring lines to see what outfits are appropriate, in various combinations, for work, casual or evening wear.
  • This spring, Lane Bryant added the capability for the customer to make a shopping list from the items she’s chosen. “That’s a tool for the [sales] associate to help them quickly find that merchandise,” Campbell says.
  • An optional customer survey on the site comes with a benefit: a coupon for 15 percent off any purchase at the store. Not only does this bring customers in, it provides Lane Bryant with information from consumers for future promotions.
  • To keep the site as current as possible, Lane Bryant updates it often. “We show current sales and hot programs,” Campbell says. “The customer knows pretty much on a weekly basis what we’re about in the store.”

The Web site, Campbell points out, has also given Lane Bryant a much-needed branding vehicle.

“We’re not on national television, so it’s certainly someplace to bring our brand to life for customers who know us and love us, and for customers who aren’t familiar with the Lane Bryant brand today and have probably a misconception of the brand based on the experience of their mothers shopping there,” she says. “The Web is a great vehicle for us to chop down those misconceptions.”

Joan Slattery Wall ([email protected]) is a reporter for SBN Columbus.

Keep ’em coming back

It’s all about relationships.

Brock Poling, president of MC2, the company that developed Lane Bryant’s Web site, says the site is a success because it helps Lane Bryant build relationships with its customers. One way it accomplishes this is through forums providing customers the opportunity to discuss fashion and other common issues.

“They feel friendship toward each other and a positive correlation between that and Lane Bryant’s brand,” Poling says. “The forums are a place they return to, in some cases daily, so they’re getting a daily dosage of the brand.

“Give them some reason to participate with your site. That’s the kind of thing that keeps them coming back to retail.”

Building a brand and doing commerce on the Web are two completely different approaches, Poling points out.

“Lane Bryant has a magazine-quality format that’s big, designed nice, with a lot of interesting bells and whistles on it. That works great to deliver a positive, fun brand message. If you’re doing commerce online, the site still can be very appealing but it needs to be much more utilitarian,” Poling says. “I think a retailer trying to do commerce needs a completely different Web site than a retailer that’s trying to drive traffic into their stores.”

Don’t forget, Poling suggests, that just as the Web site brings customers into the store, the store must give customers reasons to visit the Web site.

Retailers should make suggestions: Check out our Web site for 10 tips on looking great this season. In addition, they should promote the Web site by telling customers about it through credit card stuffers or post card mailers, for example.

“Many times you go somewhere [and] you see the URL plastered all over the place,” Poling says, “but you don’t see the benefit of going there.”