Friday, August 13, 2010

Wet Seal's Social/Mobile Strategy

Here's an excerpt of an interesting article from Apparel magazine's Website:

Finding the right game plan to capitalize on today's Facebook, YouTube and iPhone-driven market has been a struggle for many apparel retailers.

But fashion- and technology-forward junior clothing retailer The Wet Seal Inc., has been "all over it" - as its trendy teen customers might say - since 2007. That's when the Foothill Ranch, CA-based company began building its online Fashion Community, a social media platform developed by Fry Inc. that allows users to build, tag, share, rate and purchase outfits through a personalized virtual boutique.

Since launching that application in May 2008, Wet Seal has been on a tear, cranking out a slew of social media and mobile commerce tools. The company's strategy is simple - but effective.

"The intersection of cross-channel, user-generated content, and mobility makes our approach very compelling," explains Jon Kubo, Wet Seal's CIO, who also heads up e-commerce and direct marketing efforts for the company, which includes contemporary women's fashion chain Arden B. "As a fast-fashion, merchandise-driven company, our strategies are always going to be about how to differentiate ourselves and make our merchandise stand out."

Creating a community of brand advocates that churn out user-generated content and can access online, in-store and mobile shopping channels has done just that for Wet Seal.

More than Buzz
In the two years since Fashion Community launched, users have combed through Wet Seal's hip merchandise, creating and posting nearly 400,000 outfits on its Website at an average now of roughly 20,000 new outfits each month. Wet Seal places this user-generated content directly into the online and mobile purchasing processes. Search for a pair of skinny jeans, for example, and the top-ranked user-generated outfits containing those jeans pop up. One skinny-jean-and-cowl-neck-tunic combo posted in February was viewed 665 times with 62 positive rankings.

This social media merchandising approach is creating buzz, but it needs to do more than that to satisfy CEO Ed Thomas. "The true measure of these tools' usefulness is whether sales increase. And they have," says Thomas. "Our conversion rates [from browsing to buying] are over 40 percent higher for customers who have viewed a user-generated outfit, and the average dollar sale is over 20 percent higher."

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