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Paths to Purchase

By: Sara Mason
Posted: June 22, 2010, from the July 2010 issue of GCI Magazine.

page 6 of 7

Price competitiveness is the challenge of online sales. If a consumer simply wants to “replenish” or buy the latest spring colors within a favorite brand, it is very easy for her to “shop price.” This is the challenge for many online retailers. The good news is, many consumers also like to browse, and this is where the artistic design and creative copy comes into play for a Web site. Retail e-commerce sites must be ever-changing, clearly depicting product and selling “image.” The best sites provide entertainment as well as product, Linevsky emphasized.

Caswell-Massey is an example of a company that is consistently and carefully executing a multichannel branding strategy and leveraging its reputation. A longtime client, the Newport, Rhode Island company was founded in 1752. The company’s main brand is its name, and even though there are brick-n-mortar stores, it is effectively using cross-channel venues to sell and promote its product and its reputation. The brand is true to its positioning as “America’s original purveyor of luxury personal care products and accessories.” Caswell-Massey’s Facebook page looks perfectly like Caswell-Massey’s Web site. “It is not edgy, but it is consistent,” said Linevsky. “And it gets tremendous fan interaction—a lot of comments.”

Philosophy has a very important place in marketing strategy. Especially with the Internet, where a consumer can search for a product with any number of caveats. Customers can search for specialty, or niche products can leverage a unique positioning online to target a specific market. Searches for “vegan cosmetics” or “cruelty-free cosmetics” or “test-free” allows users find a beauty outlet that aligns with their philosophies. By building marketing efforts around a commitment to a niche group, such brands are aligning their philosophies with particular market segments, and capitalizing upon it with intelligent search.

However, breaking into the Internet as a first-time online retailer today requires substantial capital.

Advertising, search engine optimization, computer programming and sales support are essential but expensive. Striking up a partnership with existing and established Internet stores and selling a brand through established sites is another option. “Competition is fierce for Web presence,” said Linevsky. “Partnerships continue to be powerful in leveraging visibility, and in offering shopping options to consumers.” She suggests starting by developing a product-focused blog, Facebook and Twitter accounts, and actively using them to promote, brand and sell if truly interested in building a successful Internet-based business venture.