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Clicking into place

Three independent retailers with established transactional websites dissect their online offers and reveal how the recession has affected their internet operation

Matches

When did you first go online? January 2007.

What brands do you sell online? The same as in store. It is a broad range, from Alexander McQueen, Yves Saint Laurent, Christian Louboutin to Marc by Marc Jacobs and Acne. Bags and footwear tend to sell really well because if the customer’s size is not in stock in store they can get it online. Denim is hard to sell online because sizes vary. Somebody might take a 28 in one brand and a 26 in another.

How important will your website be to your business over the next 12 months? It is a key focus. It is an important tool to create brand equity but also for customers to get a more personalised experience. We want to create an ongoing relationship with the customer and offer them more of an insight into the brand and showcase next season’s lines and new trends.

How can you grow as an online retailer? We will grow by personalising the site and by improving our back-end content management system so people can go from the home page to buying and receiving products in a more automatic manner. Over the next six months we hope to add more of an efficient, linear and personalised experience. We will have more detailed information on products and more input from our shopping assistant and fashion advice team.

What do like best about your website? The fact that it gives us the ability to showcase all our collections in a very clear and easy-to-find manner.

How does your website reflect your bricks-and-mortar store? All of our stores are different so our website is different again. Each store has its own identity. For example, our store in Marylebone is different from the Notting Hill store. We will be redesigning the website to make it more diverse, consistent and international.

What is your most lucrative price bracket online? Online sales seem consistent with those in our stores.

How are online sales developing compared with those in your bricks-and-mortar stores? The growth is faster online. The shops are still doing OK and compared with last year we are still up. It is amazing to see the potential of the web store.

How have you developed your marketing spend in terms of promoting your website? We have budgeted for marketing online. Naturally, we haven’t needed to do that so much for our stores because of the footfall and the fact that our stores are in recognised high street shopping areas. The customers that shop in our stores are not the customers who shop online so to market our website we have to be more targeted, so we have used search engine optimisation (SEO) and pay per click (PPC ) to help us do this.

How does your online customer demographic compare with the customers you get in store? The stores have quite local communities and loyal customers within the West End of London - Marylebone is a good example. The stores also get some tourists as well. For the website our customers are outside London and are more international. Some 55% of our customers now come via our website.

How do you think the recession will affect your customers? We have been doing some research into this and the initial feedback is that the credit crunch does not seem to be affecting our customers’ spending habits. This could be because we tap the very high end of the market.

How has your website changed since you first launched it? It has changed a lot. It was always a transactional website but six months ago we introduced a back-end content management system by BT Fresca. It allows us to be much more responsive and improve our customer service.

Xile

When did you first go online? Two years ago, and we started handling transactions about a year and a half ago.

What brands do you sell online? The same we stock in store, including Aertex, Barbour, Diesel and G-Star.

How important will your website be to your business over the next 12 months? It is very important. We have nine stores and the website does better than most of the stores.

How can you grow as an online retailer? We hope to keep improving it and have taken on extra staff to deal with the customer service side of the website.

How does your website reflect your bricks-and-mortar store? The stores are all different and the website has to be different again. It is interesting that the five top-selling brands in store are the same top-selling brands online. We do try to push those brands by making sure our website comes up in the list of results when those brands are Googled.

What is your most lucrative price bracket online? People spend perhaps a little more online then they do in the store.

How are online sales developing compared with those in your bricks-and-mortar store? Sales are certainly down on last year.

How have you developed your marketing spend in terms of promoting your website? We are still spending money on marketing the store but we have also increased our web spend. It is important to advertise.

How does your online customer demographic compare with the customers you get in store? It is difficult to say, because obviously we don’t meet our web customers but I think their profiles are similar, the 16 to 24 age bracket. We only have stores in Scotland but about 50% of our web sales are to England.

How do you think the credit crunch will affect your customers? I think that age group is quite immune to it all. They also tend to live at home with their parents but are earning money. So I think we are somewhat protected in that sense.

How has your website changed since you first launched it? The guys that work on it are always working on improving and updating it.

FREEDOM CLOTHING

When did you first go online? Spring 2006.

What brands do you sell online? For women we have Diesel, Fornarina, G-Star, Gas, Indian Rose, Killah, Miss Sixty and Replay. Men get Diesel, Gas, 55DSL, Energie, G-Star and Replay.

How important will your website be to your business over the next 12 months? It’s given us the opportunity to reach new customers and service existing customers.

How can you grow as an online retailer? The best way to grow is organically, to get our customers coming back again and again.

How does your website reflect your bricks-and-mortar store? We have the ambition of the multiple retailers, even though we have the service of a small boutique.

What is your most lucrative price bracket online? Our customer isn’t necessarily motivated by price. If the product is right the price doesn’t matter.

How are online sales developing compared with those in your bricks-and-mortar store? People are spending more time at home.

How have you developed your marketing spend in terms of promoting your website? We treat it almost as an independent business.

How does your online customer demographic compare with the customers you get in store? It is a slightly wider spectrum. Over Christmas we got a lot of parents shopping for their kids who end up buying for themselves.

How do you think the recession will affect your customers? People are more conscientious about their spend, but rather than buy cheaper product they will spend more but less regularly.

How has your website changed since you first launched it? If our original incarnation was a Ford Fiesta, our new website is a Ferrari.

Net Facts

54% Proportion of UK shoppers who would be happy to spend up to £250 online

22% Proportion of UK shoppers who would be happy to spend up to £1,000 online

50% Proportion of women aged 25 and under who buy clothes online

Over 55s The age group which is set to overtake 35- to 44-year-olds as the age group with the largest representation online

21% Percentage of time that women aged between 18 and 34 spend on computers in the UK

Sources: GSI Commerce and IMRG

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