By  on May 14, 2008

Saks Direct President Denise Incandela came from McKinsey & Co., where she consulted on Internet retailing, to launch Saks Fifth Avenue's Web store in 1999. The operation numbers about 400 people, including fulfillment and customer service. This year it will be Saks' second-largest store after the Fifth Avenue flagship. Here, Incandela talks about video, social media, the economy, and Saks' innovative multichannel campaign with Theory, which concluded Monday.

WWD: How is Saks using video online?

Denise Incandela: The editorial portion of our site in the last year has really changed the way people shop. Especially video. Ninety-nine percent of our customers are now on high bandwidth connections. So it's more like TV and it's much closer to the in-store experience. We've incorporated video into our trend coverage. One thing we're doing that we're really excited about is designer interviews. For example, we had an interview with Christian Louboutin up in December. It generated over half a million dollars in sales. Think of it as a store personal appearance, but in the store only so many people get to go. This concept is taking technology and using it to expand beyond what we could do in the store.

WWD: Video is a big piece of your campaign with Theory.

D.I.: We're doing a promotion with Theory that is a multichannel event, which is why it's so powerful. You tell us your point of view on fashion. The winner will win a $3,000 shopping spree. We held events in five stores last month in the Theory areas. People could make a video in the booths. About half of the entries so far were submitted through the stores. About half were submitted through our outside partner Brickfish. [Entries can be viewed at the Brickfish site.] We also used Facebook. You can send a link [an application that shows the user's favorite Theory outfit] in Facebook. It's viral, you can pass on the link. We also had Theory video in New York store windows.

WWD: What are the results so far?

D.I.: We absolutely saw a lift on the in-store piece. For us, it was also a question of how do we reach a customer segment we're not reaching today. There is social media out there that we think is cannibalizing our shoppers' time. We need to be involved. Our online customer tends to be 10 years younger than in the store. Shopping used to be a form of entertainment and now with social media there's competition for that form of entertainment. We don't see a lot of retailers partnering with social media companies or sites.

 

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