Friday, September 25, 2009

Dressed to kill

Lord & Taylor might seem like an unlikely choice to showcase fashion from the serial killer drama Dexter, but the retailer has teamed up with Showtime to prepare for the show's upcoming season premiere set to air this Sunday.

Lord & Taylor unveiled its Dexter-themed window displays last night at its 5th Avenue and 39th Street location in Manhattan. The windows captured the essence of the hit series, aiming to show how the character leads a secret double life. Dexter, played by Michael C. Hall, is a serial killer when not working at the Miami Metro Police Department as a blood spatter analyst.

Visitors at the unveiling had the opportunity to take a professional photo with a large Dexter display, enter to win a weekend getaway for two to Dexter's hometown of Miami, and the first 250 people to arrive at the scene received a Dexter gift bag, filled with books and DVDs, valued at over $100.

Those lucky enough to arrive early were given a ticket to pick up their gift bag inside the store, appropriately in the men's department. There, customers could enjoy complimentary Dexter-themed drinks, which included a Blood martini.

Although many discussed what might happen on Dexter this season, others shopped the area and eventually found their way to the nearest cash register. Blood martinis and killer fashion? A lethal combination indeed.

Friday, September 18, 2009

The power of friendly buzz

Retailers know the value of word-of-mouth marketing, and although you'd think product recommendations from friends would have the most clout, an article from says otherwise: Online reviews actually influence shopping decisions more than those that come from a trusted friend.

Click, click, click.

(Image via

Thursday, September 17, 2009

H&M lets you try it on

I just love H&M's online fashion studio. No time to rummage through the racks of clothes at a local store? Now you can assemble outfits via its site. It's easy to use, encourages you to experiment with layers and different accessories, and even tallies the cost of the entire outfit for you.

If only all sites had this feature ...

Click here to try.

Moms just love Facebook

Retailers trying to influence moms should pay close attention to the big social networking sites, according to a new Retail Advertising and Marketing Association survey conducted by BIGresearch.

Women with children at home are more likely to use Facebook (60.3%), MySpace (42.4%) and Twitter (16.5%) than average adults (50.2%, 34.4% and 15.0%, respectively), according to the survey. Additionally, 15.3% maintain their own blog.

“Retailers who aren’t engaging customers through social media could be missing the boat,” said Mike Gatti, executive director for RAMA. “Twitter, Facebook and blogs are becoming increasingly popular with moms as they search for coupons or deals and keep in touch with loved ones. The Web provides efficient, convenient ways for brands to stay in front of their most loyal shoppers and attract new ones.”

Click here to read the full story.

(Image via iStockPhoto)

How to court your customers

“When wondering what to say or how you look, just remember she’s already out with you. She said yes, and she could have said no. It’s no longer your job to make her like you -- it’s your job not to mess it up” -- Will Smith giving dating advice in the film "Hitch"

Retailers spend a lot of time, energy and resources on luring shoppers to their sites. But consumers often face online usability issues that cause them to leave sites once they're there, costing retailers a significant amount of money in potential sales. It's also these small mistakes that that could stand in the way of building a strong customer-retailer relationship.

In my August/September e-commerce column in Chain Store Age, I discuss some low-cost, low-risk tips on how to avoid the small errors, and Megan Burns, senior analyst of customer experience for Forrester Research, Cambridge, Mass., weighed in.

Here are some teasers:

- Eliminate unnecessary content. Users shouldn’t have to wade through extraneous information to get to want they want. Make it easy for them by highlighting the most popular areas on the site, and remove what’s less important. But be cautious: Research shows that people often can’t find the content they want on the site. (A low-trafficked page might actually be high in demand and just harder to locate). Retailers should cross-reference their analytics data, and re-evaluate where certain features should be placed on the site so consumers can effectively find what they want.

- Help users recover from errors. Consumers often get far in the checkout process and end up leaving their cart due to unclear error messages. Burns said there are three characteristics that make a good error message. “They should be integrated into the page, explain the problem clearly and show how to fix it,” Burns said.

In the design process, many retailers allow the developers to write error messages. “But don’t,” she warned. “Give the error messages extra care and let the right people write them. Also, be sure to inform shoppers explicitly why an error occurred.” (e.g., The ZIP code doesn’t match the city and state.)

- The order review page shouldn’t look like a confirmation page. Shoppers often mistake the second-to-last step as the final one. Be sure to make the text, design and location clear, so people know they have one more step to go.

To read the full story, click here.

Keeping up with the social crowd

Facebook and Twitter are powerful tools for retailers looking to communicate with customers, but are these social networking sites becoming their unlikely new competitors?

For Cleveland, Ohio-based American Greetings, a greetings card and e-commerce company, the answer is yes.

“Many consumers now send birthday and holiday messages via Facebook or Twitter rather than relying on cards and e-cards,” said Kathy Hecht, senior VP and general manager direct for American Greetings, during the recent eTail East conference held in Baltimore. “Our competitors are no longer just those companies that offer the same product, but free online sites that can provide a similar service.”

Facebook members can also send free or low-cost virtual goods to their online friends. However, some analysts think this niche area is limited since many social networkers aren’t ready or interested in making larger purchases on the site -- they’re there to socialize, not to shop.

Still, Hecht said American Greetings aims to up its game to stand out among these new trends and keep customers loyal.

Click here to read more about the company's new strategic initiatives.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Gap says bonjour to Merci

Gap opened up its latest concept shop yesterday in cooperation with the French boutique Merci, next to Gap's flagship store in Midtown Manhattan. I went to check it out, and wasn't surprised to see the tiny space on Fifth Avenue flooded with local and out-of-town shoppers.

Merci Gap is open for a limited time only, until October 4, and the collaboration marks the inaugural Merci boutique in the United States.

Inspired by the original Parisian boutique, the Merci Gap concept store is offering a mix of Merci's signature products in addition to limited-edition Gap specialties.

The store also ties in a touch of Parisian culture by having its store greeter say, "Bonjour" and "Au Revoir" to each person who passes.

Though, of course it's done with a noticeable New York accent, which makes the attempt even more endearing.

All profits from Merci Gap, after production costs are deducted, will go to various children's charities and to provide work for impoverished youth in Madagascar. The same is true for the original store in Paris.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Bribe me with new music, and I'll love you forever

I usually prefer Dunkin' Donuts over Starbucks for the occasional early-morning coffee run, but that's no longer the case on Tuesdays. Starbucks wins me over each Tuesday by handing out pocket-sized cards that feature a new artist on the front. The redemption code on the back then allows me to download the song for free from the iTunes Music Store.

I love this for many reasons. First, the obvious: Free music with my drink. But it's a smart move for Starbucks on several levels. It not only drives foot traffic into stores, but it also reinforces the company's presence in the music retail space. By promoting little-known artists on a national level, the company reminds those shoppers who have bought CDs or DVDs at Starbucks in the past about its new music offerings, while it also gets the word out to the rest of its customers.

And finally, I love that the card represents a bridge to the online world. Since customers can only pick up these cards in a physical location, the free download serves as a reward to those who continue their shopping experience online. And from the end-user's standpoint, that's what I call a gratifying multichannel experience.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Best Buy to offer a nightcap

Ever have the urge to go shopping for CDs at 4:00 a.m.? Yeah, me neither. But just in case the situation ever presents itself, Best Buy is opening its first-ever 24-hour store, appropriately in the city that never sleeps.

The retailer plans to occupy the former Circuit City location in New York City's Union Square neighborhood. It will also be near the recently shuttered Virgin Megastore location.

To Best Buy's advantage, Union Square is hopping at all hours of the night. The area draws crowds from locals bars and restaurants, and you'll almost always find people hanging out at the adjacent park. But will Best Buy lure shoppers in after their night out?

The company seems to think so. It recently posted a Craigslist ad looking for overnight employees. And with several NYU dorms nearby, I'm sure finding those willing to work the graveyard shift won't be too hard. It's just finding people at 4 a.m. to buy CDs that might be a problem.

I only wonder how Best Buy will compete with iTunes and other Web-based platforms that can appease a late-night appetite for on-demand multimedia and don't require you to leave your home ...