Byline: Karyn Monget

NEW YORK — The Internet is still unexplored territory for a lot of innerwear manufacturers, but 80 of them turned out to learn more about it at a recent seminar sponsored by the Underfashion Club.
They were told they need to get computer savvy — as well as find the right marketing hook — if they want to sell lingerie on the World Wide Web.
Entitled “An Intimate Internet Experience,” the event at the New York Helmsley Hotel featured four speakers: Jan Cain, president of Cain Associates, an advertising firm; Martin Belk, president and chief executive officer of Sensory Networks, a live Internet broadcasting firm, and two executives from The Doneger Group buying office — John G. Sohikian, director of information technology services, and David Wolfe, creative director.
About one quarter of the vendor audience said they occasionally dialed-up to an Internet service provider, whether for browsing or just to receive e-mail.
Whether a manufacturer decides to take the retail or wholesale route on the Web, the panelists generally said it was important to develop a concept, and a plan regarding costs for a Web page — which can go from $1,000 to as high as $100,000. They also noted that positioning of the product is crucial. As example, a top brand generally fares better than a brand that’s had little or no exposure in the media or at stores.
“There currently are 150 million Web pages on the Internet, and by 2000, the number of Web pages is expected to reach 1 billion,” said Cain. “Right now, the Web is a really great library, an information resource that can inform, educate, entertain and advise.
“And the key word is video — you can have a one-on-one with your consumer base. It’s push-and-pull marketing, all about getting and giving information,” she told the audience.
Belk outlined several elements of a successful direct consumer campaign on-line: “Educate the consumer, do branding through entertainment, and do everything you can to keep your audience interacting with your product.”
As a key example, Belk displayed a Web page featuring the “best Elvis Presley clocks,” which showed The King wearing blue suede shoes and swinging his hips and legs back and forth. The entertainment hook could also include an audio rendition of an Elvis tune, he said.
“Conventional [print] advertising really helps people find your page on the Web,” he continued. “What most people are doing is just putting a .com address on a letter head. That’s not enough. It’s kind of like saying, ‘Oh, by the way, here’s our address.”‘
Representing the wholesale angle, Sohikian of Doneger Group, said: “We are developing Doneger On Line, an opportunity for the vendor community to do business with retailers.”
So far, Sohikian said Doneger has signed up 82 stores for its “Deals of the Day,” as a service of its off-price division, which will include digital photos of apparel in the off-price division. Doneger’s lingerie division, though, is not yet part of the on-line project, which won’t be active until August.
Regarding how retailers are responding to the prospect of using the service, Sohikian replied: “It’s surprising. The larger stores are a little slow to adapt to the technology. There’s so much bureaucracy at these larger companies, and some stores don’t bother to respond — even though they have the technology….We are finding that the smaller stores are much more flexible.”
As for the costs of Doneger’s on-line venture, Sohikian said, “There’s no additional cost at this point for existing retail clients.” He said a fee has not yet been determined for manufacturers who want to participate.
When it comes to lingerie specifically, Wolfe was skeptical.
“For you,” Wolfe told the audience, “you have a very special consumer. I don’t know if she’s out there cruising the net for lingerie.”
He further admitted, “I hear all of this stuff, and I’m totally overwhelmed. I’m fascinated by marketing on-line, but I don’t think a Web page with 20,000 viewers will do much for me. I don’t see what print advertising in a major magazine wouldn’t do.

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