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Knitting / Apparel

Leveraging Internet Technology

Liz Claiborne uses a marketing website as a brand-building website.

 According to the latest research, apparel sales will be the fastest growing product category on-line through 2002.Forrester Research sees on-line sales of apparel and footwear growing from $92 million in revenue in 1997 to $514 million by 2001.In 1998, holiday shopping figures through America On-line support the growing trend of on-line sales with a 350-percent growth over the same period last year and three-quarters of a million people making on-line purchases for the first time, at an average of $54 per item.While projections such as these make a compelling argument for selling your products on-line, doing so can be a tremendous challenge for those companies whose success is founded in more traditional channels of distribution. One question remains: How do you market the consumer directly without creating channel conflictAt Liz Claiborne, a $2.5 billion company with annual earnings growth of 18.6 percent, the solution was to support its existing channels of distribution by developing a web site that was strictly marketing oriented and not sales driven.LizClaiborne.com is owned by corporate marketing, and is used strictly as a vehicle for brand building through product information and store locators.

 Leveraging StrategyThe real internet success story at Claiborne is how it has leveraged the technology as a business-to-business tool as a part of their overall IT strategy. According to John R. Thompson, Claibornes chief information officer, customer service and logistics sophistication have replaced brand equity as the differentiators of the 90s.At the heart of Claibornes strategy is Liz Link, the companys business-to-business extranet web site and order-tracking system that is dramatically reducing the 1,500-2,000 calls it receives per day from buyers simply calling to check on the status of their orders.Instead, buyers are now logging onto the password protected customer service site, where with the use of their browser they can point and click their way through open, in-work and shipped orders in either units or dollars. Information can be viewed by account, season, group summary, group, style or by delivery door.The operational calendar offers allocation, in-store and confirmation due dates by group. Liz News keeps buyers current on the latest happenings in the company.According to Kevin Keenan, vice president, Customer ServiceandElectronic Commerce at Claiborne, the benefits from the customer service site have been tremendous.Since implementation in January 1998, we have been able to measurably reduce the length and quantity of customer service calls, while changing the calls we do receive to be more value added as opposed to quantitative. The system offers real-time information, seven days a week, 24 hours a day, is available from anywhere and allows us to be more pro-active with our buyers. To date, 25 of Claibornes top 40 accounts are using the system. According to Keenan, the company has buyers who will go home and use their personal computer to access the system because they dont have Internet access at the office.So, as the world of fashion races down the Internet runway in an attempt to grab a piece of the growing on-line marketplace, keep in mind that the Internet is not just about selling product.Behind what we see on corporate marketing websites, is a growing web of Intranets and Extranets that are linking business-to-business throughout the supply chain and making for more efficient technology driven companies who can better serve the needs of their existing channels of distribution.For more on Liz Claibornes Liz Link program, see Teri Rosss article, One Step Ahead, in the April 1999 issue of ATI. Editor's Note: Teri Ross is owner and president of Imagine That! Consulting Group, publishers of the award winning techexchange.com. She can be reached via e-mail at 612/593-0776.

June 1999