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Jan 1, 2007
by Christopher Heine
"If you do not have a lot of data, a lot of how you perform depends on if you interpret your situation as a positive or as a negative," said David Manela, vice president of channel development at upscale fashion retailer, Vivre Inc., New York. "We focus on what our positives are when we go about marketing." Vivre, has produced enviable results while overcoming technological deficiencies. You do not have to be selling high end products to learn something from the firm's successes.
Manela's can-do philosophical approach has played a major part in the ten year old company's entrepreneurial ascent. In the early days, they relied almost solely on a thin mailer and, grew to a full scale book that reaches 1.2 million catalog subscribers. Since going online in 2001, they have boasted 30 percent overall growth year over year, doubling sales for four out of the past five years.
Growth has not been easy, since Manela and his team have never had the backend technology to track individual user activity on the site. With such a limited view of Vivre's upscale customer base (their average order size is $550 and their customer's average income is $150,000). How can Manela continue to achieve such skyrocketing growth?
Despite their database limitations, Manela and his team have managed to segment their house file into other lists, including Loyal & Recent Customers, VIP Customers and buyers from big name designers. Then, offers were emailed to the whole file, or tailored messages to specific groups, based on buyers' spending histories. Vivre's brand and image have stayed consistent throughout all emails, a look that is similar to a glossy fashion magazine layout: big headlines, large photos, breezy flow and short copy.
"Telling a story is absolutely key to what we do in email, the website or the catalog," Manela said. "It is what we strive for." Meanwhile, since designers are like rock stars to the retailer's 73 percent female demographic, the company uses that fact to its advantage in email. Manela closely watches shopping carts to track customer purchasing habits as they pertain to each designer. Being able to center on brand and personality gives an edge that he understands must be manifested. "When someone gives us peeks of what products or designers they identify with in terms of lifestyle, we build upon it," Manela said.
Top designer Oscar de la Renta always gets attention on the red carpet at the Academy Awards, so Manela hoped a, "Front row with Oscar," email blast to past de la Renta buyers would generate similar buzz. He was not afraid to mention price either: The email featured three handbags, ranging from $650 to $2,200, a pair of $415 velvet sandals, and a $4,900 cashmere embroidered coat.
The Oscar de la Renta campaign showed that Vivre's patrons are, indeed, designer loyal: The email sent to past de la Renta buyers saw a 38.2 percent open rate, 15.9 percent click-through rate, and 8.9 percent sales conversion rate.
When sending to their house file, Manela has been using offers with a straightforward merchandising message. This summer, they used a 65 percent discount for their, "The End Is Near, The End Is Here," email. The email served as a way to heighten customer affinity to both the Loyal & Recent and VIP segments, and also clear end of season inventory.
They wrote, "Last Chance For Hot Summer Savings - Now 65 percent Off," for the subject line and used a dominant creative element by simply showcasing a woman in a bikini, stylish beach hat and sunglasses, and holding a handbag. Proving that consumers indeed love a sale, the late summer discount obviously hit a hot button. The straightforward style of merchandising worked at a high level. Results wise, it had a 15.2 percent open rate, 5.4 percent click-through rate and 4.9 percent sales conversion rate.
"Being able to stand behind a strong merchandising selection has always been a part of our most successful email campaigns," Manela said. "It is a combination of marketing and merchandising coming together, like a story, that makes a direct effort work."
But Vivre also proves that intelligently using the customer information you DO have can work wonders. So if you are down about your company's marketing limitations, perhaps it is time to creatively explore how your resources can be put to better use.
You might be surprised with the results.
For more information, contact:
11 East 26th Street 15th Floor
New York, NY 10010
Topic: Business Strategies
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