By  on November 30, 2006

The power of a fashion brand can easily be seen on the runway, but can that same power be captured online? "Designers have been late to the party with their Web sites," noted Milton Pedraza, chief executive officer of New York City-based Luxury Institute. "Because they are so high end, they could be leading the charge, in terms of design and capability." To find out the appeal of various fashion sites, the institute developed a "Luxury Website Effectiveness Index of Fashion Designers," or "LWEI: Fashion Designers." The index is made up of four equally weighted components: usefulness of content, ease of navigation, overall look and feel and trust with personal information. One interesting note: Online purchases were not a high priority in this study. In fact, the report found that currently, "only Coach and Polo Ralph Lauren have a sufficient level of e-commerce activity to yield a statistically meaningful comparison."

POLO RALPH LAUREN
Luxury Website Effectiveness Index: 8.22
Earlier this month, WWD reported that polo.com was helping to drive sales for the New York-based company: For the six months ended Sept. 30, polo.com sales grew by 35 percent, versus the same period a year ago. Polo.com has more than two million visitors each month. Luxury Institute's report stated, "Respondents who found the site exceeded their expectations say the site ‘is just what I wanted,' and ‘it is detailed, thorough, and very visual.'" Visitors can find all facets of the Ralph Lauren lifestyle at polo.com, from the men's Purple Label and women's Collection brands to the men's Polo Ralph Lauren and women's Blue Label and Lauren labels. Additional attributes include a "Style Guide," which provides a "Q&A" section on seasonal wear and party wear, for example. The "Gift Guide" page offers suggestions on some of the hottest gifts for men, women and children this holiday.

COACH
LWEI: 8.13
Those surveyed gave high marks to coach.com's ease of navigation and overall look and feel. The report also stated respondents "liked the interactivity" the site offered, such as enlarging items to check their quality. Coach.com's home page provides visitors with immediate access to available products and quick customer service information if needed. The "New Guide to Giving" section is devoted to holiday gift ideas. The page is broken down into potential recipients of the gifts, and each category — like the "For the Professional" section — provides ideas, such as the Coach Hamptons Pebbled Leather Business Tote, to its viewers. The site also allows visitors to request catalogues and sign up for e-mails in order to receive news about the latest styles, seasonal updates and store openings.

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