An online store is not just a store, according to Lisa Gavales, executive vice president and chief marketing officer of Express Inc.

“Don’t squeeze every penny out of your Web site,” she said. “The purpose of an e-commerce site is not only to sell.”

This story first appeared in the October 27, 2010 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

The Express online store is only two years old, but growing rapidly. In its first year, it did $92 million in sales. Now it’s trending up over 50 percent more this year, she said.

Not only that, it heavily influences sales chainwide. Eighty-six percent of visitors to the online site said they planned to visit a physical Express store after browsing online. All Web stores should be funded accordingly, she said.

So, hypothetically, if a Web site accounts for 10 percent of sales but 42.5 percent of traffic, then the online store should receive 42.5 percent of the budget.

“More people experience your brand online than in the store,” she said.

As for social media, it’s not a popularity contest, but rather a way to interact with customers. “My customers don’t come to the site or the store every day, but they do come to Facebook every day,” Gavales said.

Express is investing in mobile with a smartphone-friendly site and 2-D barcode promotions for holiday, since by yearend there will be more than one billion devices accessing the Web. “I expect this year — the holidays — to be the unlock,” she said.

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