WWD Forum: Charlotte Russe Jumpstarts E-Commerce

Charlotte Russe encourages shoppers to invite friends to follow along.

A late bloomer in e-commerce, Char­­lotte Russe wants to make up for lost time.

This story first appeared in the October 15, 2009 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

“We’re late to the game, so how do we become relevant? How do we stay relevant? How do we cater to our customers’ needs?” said Craig Gillan, director of e-commerce at Charlotte Russe, which was taken private by Advent International Corp. this week.

The specialty retailer went live with its shopping Web site in 2007 and is trying to be more competitive by keeping the site streamlined, helping consumers go on virtual shopping trips and engaging customers on their smartphones.

“We’ve got the product, but product anymore doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re relevant,” Gillan said. “It doesn’t mean that she’s going to come to your site or, when she’s on your site, that she’s going to buy.”

See a quick video highlight of Craig Gillan explaining the importance of giving customers options>>


Charlotte Russe sells feminine looks to the 16- to 29-year-old set, which Gillian said is “ripe for e-commerce.”

The company is trying to lock-in that customer online by helping her feel comfortable with what she’s buying and making it easy to shop.

Customers may invite friends on the Internet to follow along with them as they browse. This, as well as a feature that shows what other shoppers are looking at in real time, helps the brand harness the influence of like-minded consumers.

“The power of peer influence will drive greater purchasing, greater conversion, greater time with our brand and greater exposure,” Gillan said.

On the site, a Flash interface lets shoppers dissect different outfits and individual pieces without having to open a new window or refresh the page.

In addition, Charlotte Russe is pushing to be where its customers are by making their fashions accessible through Facebook and other social media sites and allowing a customer to stay on that site while she shops.

“All she has to do is hit ‘Go to Shopping’ and she’s in the cart,” Gillan explained. “Push her right through. We’re getting to a point where you can have all these brand portals that are external to your site sell product and [the customer is] not even on your site until they’re checking out.”