VICTORIA’S SECRET SHIFTS INTO GLOBAL OVERDRIVE

Byline: Michael Hickins

NEW YORK — In its usual bold and daring fashion, Victoria’s Secret wants to broaden its international audience and double its online sales this year.
To date, the brand has barely touched upon its potential for sales outside the U.S. However, this year, the company plans maximize its exposure and brand recognition worldwide.
That’s the message from Ken Weil, vice president of new media at Intimate Brands, which owns Victoria’s Secret, the multichannel retailer of intimate apparel.
Among the marketing extravaganzas in the works, Victoria’s Secret will Webcast its annual fashion show live from Cannes, France, on May 18, to benefit Amfar. The Cannes Film Festival is held the same week. Weil said the show will “introduce people to the brand in association with a glamorous event” that always gets massive media attention.
“The women we design for are self-confident, glamorous, sexy and modern,” regardless of national identity, he said, in an interview. “There’s a worldwide audience for this type of product.”
International revenues currently represent just 7 percent of the retailer’s Internet business, partly as a result of sales growth in the U.S. Victoria’s Secret U.S. revenues, Weil said, are “growing exponentially.”
The event at Cannes is therefore “something to built upon,” he said. “It’s about conveying the brand and the image.”
The effort is being supported by a new merchandising feature called Click and Order, which will enable visitors to click on fashions worn by models during the live Webcast and place those items in their shopping baskets.
According to Anne Marie Blaire, senior manager of Internet brand development, the feature will allow visitors to enjoy the entire presentation and then choose sizes and colors after the show is over.
Millions of online visitors are expected to view the live show, but to guard against the possibility that they overwhelm host servers, the company has moved its servers to another, larger hosting facility operated by IBM, Armonk, N.Y.
To further alleviate potential network saturation, the show will be Webcast simultaneously through separate networks operated by Yahoo! and AOL.
Thus, customers of those Internet service providers, based in Santa Clara, Calif., and Dulles, Va., respectively, will access the show through a different gateway than other users.
Because overseas business represents a relatively insignificant proportion of Internet transactions, Victoria’s Secret is so far taking an incremental approach in terms of technology, and will not develop multilingual capabilities in the short term.
Weil did say this could change if conditions dictated. “When the economics dictate better support, we would do that. For now though, we’re taking a measured, step-by-step process,” he said.
The site will nonetheless feature small-scale acknowledgements of international shoppers, such as a currency translation feature and foreign language instructions.
On the domestic front, the firm has focused on technologies that make its site easier to navigate while adding merchandising features that improve sales and still respect customers’ concerns for privacy.
“We’ve added features and functions that we’ve learned are important to our customer,” said Weil.
One such function is the wish list, which is common to many sites but presents interesting challenges for this particular retailer. “A woman may not want the same items to be viewed by her husband and someone else in her family,” suggested Blaire.
To overcome this obstacle, Victoria’s Secret has developed a technology that allows users to create individual wish lists customized for each recipient, and further guards their privacy by requiring passwords to access those lists.

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