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Mar 07, 2005
How To

Two Ways Bath & Body Works Uses the Internet to Drive Brick-and-Mortar Sales

SUMMARY: If you don't sell directly online, but consumers throng to your site anyway because you're a famous name brand, how can you monetize that traffic? Bath & Body Works has tested two tactics (beyond merely offering a store locator)...
-> Printable shopping lists (for offline shopping)
-> Emailed coupons.
Discover the lessons their marketing department has learned for each of these tests.
Bath & Body Works has more than 1,700 brick-and-mortar stores in the US. Naturally the chain also has a spiffy Web site.

However, what they don't have is ecommerce functionality. The chain made the strategic decision -- for the time being anyway -- not to directly sell products online.

Aside from functioning as a brand placeholder and offering store locator maps, can a true brick-and-mortar use the Web to drive in-store sales? The answer, says Shannon Glass, Director of Internet Strategies, is a definite yes.

"We're really spending a lot of time understanding the power of the Web as it relates to educating our customers about product. When you're not commerce-based, there's time to focus on these other things."

So far two tactics have stood out as winners: offering printable shopping lists and trackable email coupons. Here are details:

Tactic #1. Printable shopping lists

Although the site doesn't have a shopping cart (because nothing can be purchased without visiting an offline location) Glass and her team wanted to enable the first half of the shopping process: looking around and adding items to a personal list.

It's the fun part of shopping anyway, so why not let consumers do it online? The list can be printed out and, if the visitor has searched for stores in their geographical vicinity, the list includes locations of the nearest Bath & Body Works stores.

Through testing, the team discovered two specific ways to make shopping lists more successful:

o Don't require registration to create a shopping list

Initially the site required registration before a consumer could start a personal list. Last November the team tested removing that requirement -- and voila, list use went rocketing upwards.

Now, site visitors can browse, add things to their shopping list, and print the list, all without ever having to register.

"Now we've made it as easy as it can be, and bare bones works better for us. We don't need a lot of bells and whistles. If I were to pull one thing out as advice for other marketers, I'd say stop having them register," says Glass.

On the other hand, if visitors want to save their shopping list, or email it as a wish list to friends or family, they can register.

"It's a really big component for us," says Glass. "People are spending more, and we're seeing success with the sheer number of people who are using the list."

o Offer a bonus offer to increase usage

When a visitor adds an item to their shopping list, they get a pop-up that shows the item was successfully added to the list and that offers a free body wash with a $20 purchase from the list.

Then, their printout of the list includes a tracking number that allows stores to track redemption.

There's an inherent challenge in making the offer work, however: If a shopper spends only $6 from items on the shopping list but finds an additional $14 worth of items that weren't on the list, for instance, will they receive the bonus?

"Probably," says Glass. "The sales associate would have to make that call; it's something we need to address."

Tactic #2. Trackable email coupons

Glass' team sends bimonthly email coupons with trackable barcodes that, as with the shopping list offer, allow stores to track redemption.

Offers have included: -- complimentary product with any purchase -- complimentary product with specified dollar-amount purchase -- complimentary product with specified additional product purchase.

"Free product with any purchase is risky because it allows people to come in and buy a $1 product," Glass says. However, sometimes that's appropriate, particularly when the objective is simply to get shoppers in the door.

Three key learnings around email offers:

o Offers based on amount spent are more effective than those based on what is bought

For example, coupons for a free product with a $20 purchase work better than coupons for a complimentary product with purchase of another specific product because it gives people the ability to decide what they want to shop for, Glass believes.

o Viral component allows for good prospecting

While the email coupons have a barcode that can be tracked, Bath & Body Works doesn't use technology that limits people to print coupons only once or that keeps them from emailing coupons to friends.

This has allowed their success to grow significantly. While Glass was unable to share percentages of people who redeem coupons in stores, she did say that "compared with industry standards we're doing well."

o Be wary of coupon abusers

"People register for these things and their whole purpose is to post coupons [on other sites]," says Glass. She is beginning to evaluate how big a problem those coupon sites are, and if she needs to start limiting how often a single coupon is accessed and redeemed.

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