Company: Sydney's Closet
Contact: Phyllis Brasch Librach, President and Founder; Erin Delanty, Internet Marketing Director
Location: Maryland Heights, MO
Industry: Retail, Online
Annual revenue: Confidential
Number of employees: 5

Quick Read:

In 2003, Phyllis Librach launched a Web site dedicated to providing plus-size prom dresses. Personalization has always been an underlying goal for Librach, who started the site after seeing her plus-size daughter attempt, in vain, to find a prom dress. "In a world where thin is in, I found it agonizing and unfair that millions of teens and young women like my daughter were fashion-starved for plus-size formal wear."

Since its launch, the company has significantly expanded its product selection by offering plus-size formal dresses for black-tie events, weddings, and cocktail events. In 2008, it introduced casual dresses. Its most significant merchandising strategy was the creation of Sydney's Closet Executives, a specially designed collection of dresses sold under the "Sydney's Closet" label.

By expanding its product line to include plus-size formal wear for occasions beyond proms, the site attracted a significantly wider demographic, ranging in age from 15 to 80.

The site attracts 10,000 to 25,000 unique visitors a day from all over the world. The company has recorded double-digit growth in revenue every year since its launch.

Despite those successes, shopping-cart abandonment had increased; moreover, the company did not know how to segment its growing visitor traffic and had difficulty personalizing the site experience.

To resolve those issues, Sydney's Closet in 2006,  tapped Quebec-based online marketing solutions provider Sitebrand to assess visitor traffic, identify problem areas, and expand opportunities for sales.

The Challenge:

Sydney's Closet, a niche clothing e-tailer focused on the plus-size market, found that its "one size fits all" message was not working: Shopping-cart abandonment had been increasing significantly.

Sydney's Closet customers come primarily through Web searches, and the company relies on search engine optimization as its main marketing method.

"We don't spend a penny on pay-for-click programs. Our entire SEO strategy is to win the top three positions for organic, or natural, listings for keywords that will send us a highly qualified customer," noted Librach.

The company's additional offerings—those beyond prom dresses—had attracted international customers as well as expanded its demographic base, attracting 15-80-year-olds.

The marketing challenge for the company came in the form of increased audience diversification. "You can't market to a 16-year-old the same way you do to a bride that is 25. We needed to find a way to talk to various visitor segments as individuals rather than grouping everyone into a single prom and bridal category," said Erin Delanty, Internet marketing director for Sydney's Closet.

The Campaign:

To power its customer personalization efforts, the company turned to Sitebrand and its visitor segmentation tool to help identify, test, and deliver content and offers more specific to visitors' interests and needs.

The Sitebrand solution helps deliver content that relates to each customer, as determined by business rules based on geo-location, keyword searches, number of visits, Web page locations, and other triggering conditions.

Sitebrand analytics tool gathered data for two months before the initial geo-targeting campaigns, which sought to segment visitors by geographic location and provide targeted content to each customer.

The first geo-targeting campaigns were launched in November and December 2006. Sitebrand defined three zones on the company's landing pages to personalize the site experience for different types of visitors.

Zone 1, at the top of the page, showcased a banner to welcome international visitors. Zone 2, the main visual area of the homepage, was reserved for special-themed or seasonal promotions. Zone 3, footers throughout the site, provided helpful suggestions and reminders that help is just a click away. The banner ad in Zone 3 featured text ("We're here to help!") highlighting Sydney's Closet customer service.

Following the geo-campaigns, the company worked with Sitebrand to reduce shopping-cart abandonment.

It kicked off a campaign in February 2007, using two specific offers once users reached the shopping carts. The company employed an A/B split testing model to determine which offer would be more successful, with one offer featuring a $10 off coupon and the other featuring free shipping.

The Results:

The first month of the cart-abandonment campaign, the yield lift was some 26%—and has remained in the 25-45% range, said Delanty.

The free-shipping offer slightly outperformed the $10-off savings offer. "One interesting finding is that the free-shipping campaign did better at increasing the overall yield lifts while the $10 off increased the ASP (average size of purchase)," noted Delanty.

Delanty said the most surprising thing in regard to the geo-targeting campaigns was that they have a seasonality element: They are more successful at different times of the year. For example, the company might experience more visitors during prom season than other times during the year, so the geo-campaigns that work to identify customers' needs work more successfully when those seasons are taken into account.
Within the first 60 days of the campaign, the conversion rate (number of transactions divided by number of visitors) increased.

"Initially we didn't have a conversion rate that was on the map. Within a couple of months our conversion rates were up to 0.02%, with some of the yield lifts in the range of 30% to 50%. It was impressive right off the bat," said Delanty.

"Sitebrand gave me a new perspective. It helped me look at every single visitor as a unique person and to think about how we could best treat each person and talk to them as individuals while they were on our site," added Delanty. "It really changed the way we looked at our entire Web site marketing program."

Delanty also used Sitebrand to present special welcoming offers to first-time visitors. These campaigns have proved successful. "We see really high lift rates on our first-time visitor campaigns, in the range of 7% to 15%, depending on the offers," she said.

Sydney's Closet plans to expand its use of Sitebrand to present more category-specific information in all areas of the Web site, said Delanty: "When visitors get to a page, they'll see what they selected with some possible suggestions about what they might like, instead of seeing everything at once."

The company plans to continue focusing on further segmentation and more individualized attention to each customer.

Lessons Learned:

  • Go beyond using analytics to merely track visits and keywords. Delve more deeply into customer behavior and traffic patterns to determine what content you can provide to drive them to purchase.
  • Personalizing the customer's experience is key to increasing conversions. Making sure the right customer sees the right message can mean the difference between closing a sale and an immediate bounce from your site.

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Case Study: A Niche E-tailer Sizes Up Glamour... One Customer at a Time, Boosting Sales with a Personalized Web Site Experience

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