By  on April 23, 2009

Joe’s Jeans is looking to make its online strategy about more than generating sales.

The company has launched a redesigned Web site management hopes will forge deeper relationships between the brand and its customers. It is adding a blog and Joe’s Jeans TV to give exposure to founder and creative director Joe Dahan, take customers behind the scenes on photo shoots and create a community around the brand. Online sales will be a part of that customer experience, but management insists it isn’t the site’s reason for being.

“If everything you’re doing is to drive [customers] to that e-shop, they’re going to get it and they’re not going to spend as much time on your site,” said Marc Crossman, president and chief executive officer.

An online shop should be only one facet of the larger branding power of a Web site, Crossman said. Joe’s, which is a publicly traded company, does not break out its online sales, but Crossman said they don’t constitute a “meaningful portion” of the business.

“It’s not even in the top 10 of accounts in any way, shape or form,” he said. “I’m fine with that because our goal is not to push this in people’s faces. People will see through that.”

Improving consumers’ experience with the brand is the larger goal. Crossman said people are often surprised to find out there really is a Joe behind the brand, something Joe’s Jeans TV should help remedy. The company also sought to make navigating the site easier by making fits simpler to understand and focusing more on complete looks. All product is featured on models, giving customers a better idea of an overall look that can be achieved. It’s a departure from model-less pictures of each denim style with close up shots of the fabric or back pockets.

To jump-start interest, the company has launched an online competition to find the brand’s next model. The Joe’s Next Model contest will run through July 15 and will have contestants posting short videos and blogging about themselves and the brand. Other visitors will vote on the contestants, and a panel of judges will help narrow the field to the top five men and women. The winner will be announced Aug. 12 and featured in the brand’s ad campaign.

“I’ll measure it as a success by how many people come to the site and, more importantly, post their comments,” Crossman said.

The brand is seeing some renewed strength in the denim market. The company recently said it expected fourth-quarter sales of $17.8 million, slightly ahead of its guidance and down only 1.5 percent from the $18.1 million in sales reported during the fourth quarter of 2007. First-quarter sales are expected to be $16 million to $16.5 million, representing five to eight percent growth.

“Every month is stronger than the last,” Crossman said.

Signs of weakness began showing in September, he said, and November was “extremely tough.” But things have steadily improved since. November may not have been the bottoming of the economy, but Crossman believes the numbers he’s seeing indicate premium jeans are one item people continue to indulge in.

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