Case Study: Web Ads Move Fashion Retail Sales Offline

Think online retail and ecommerce inevitably follows. That’s beginning to change. Retailers are discovering that like their print, TV and radio counterparts, Web ads can get bodies into stores, and cash registers ringing, too.

The Objective

A high-end, national department store (referred to as “Macyingdales” here) hoped to prove it by applying an age-old tactic to a new medium. Macyingdales’ fall fashion collection was launched in conjunction with NYC’s Fall Fashion Week event. In order to drive sales and create a new revenue stream, the store hit fashion-minded consumers frequently and intensely through exclusive sponsorship of all Fall Fashion Week coverage on WashingtonPost.com, including multimedia photo galleries and columns.

“When this whole Internet thing started, there was a click-to-click mindset,” recalls Deborah Correa, director of creative and client services at Washingtonpost.Newsweek Interactive. “Now it’s click-to-bricks. Advertising on the Internet can be a valid vehicle for moving sales.”

The time sensitive quality of the campaign and the fall fashion collection afforded Macyingdales the opportunity to test whether online placements alone could generate revenue. No other media was employed in this particular campaign, so in a way, the retailer could test in a vacuum.

The Creative

To attract couture-conscious shoppers (mainly females) who’d be most interested in Fashion Week related content, and reinforce the store’s classy image, Macyingdales ran skyscrapers, banners, sponsorships and “big box” formats right where that target audience could find the fashion-focused coverage they craved. In other words, rather than target by user demographic, they targeted by content affinity. The campaign ran nationally from the beginning of the week before Fashion Week to the end of the week following the event.

“We took their message and creative and let them own something directly related to the people they were trying to reach,” adds Don Marshall, director of communications at Washingtonpost.Newsweek Interactive. Both Marshall and Correa stress that editorial coverage of Fashion Week was not influenced by what Macyingdales was selling.

The Results

The store used the same three weeks of 2001 as a campaign measurement benchmark and reported a 125% return on investment with retail sales directly attributed to the washingtonpost.com ads. Although the publisher often tracks ROI through targeted audience surveys and other measurement techniques, this time the advertiser let the bottom line be the judge. Says Correa, “Their polling is their cash register.”

In response to the campaign’s success, Macyingdales is currently promoting its much broader holiday retail offerings on WashingtonPost.com, and has more than doubled its investment in the site. Correa and Marshall also report that other large and small retailers have been starting to advertise on the site.

“It’s been difficult to crack retail online,” admits Marshall, “but they’re realizing the Web is still a place they need to be.”

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