Earlier this summer, New York & Company (NY&C) joined Zmags for the first in our “Master Marketer” webinar series. In the webinar, Paul Carroll, NY&C company’s vice president of digital and e-commerce creative, discussed how Zmags’ flagship product, Creator, has enabled his team to grab consumer attention, boost sales and reduce the cost of creating and publishing mission-critical digital experiences.
Like many apparel retailers, NY&C uses a mix of online and in-store campaigns to sell its wares. Prior to using Zmags, NY&C faced technical and process-based challenges in converting all of its assets to an online mobile environment. The result was a creatively limited user experience that didn’t work well, especially on mobile.
One campaign with Zmags Creator for NY&C’s Sweet Pea apparel line convinced Carroll that the platform represented a simple way to put creative content and engaging experiences together. NY&C’s metrics that refer to goods “turning on a 2 or 3” — inventory is sold out in two weeks or three weeks — were easily and repeatedly beaten. For example, the Sweat Pea line sold out in 0.7 weeks, an unprecedented amount of time of approximately four days.
Since the initial engagement of using the Creator, NY&C’s website has seen a 600 percent improvement in site views. Listen to the webinar here to find out how NY&C achieved this level of success.
We’ve outlined and expanded below five key takeaways from the discussion:
1. Customers are mobile: NY&C’s analysis shows that 67 percent of its traffic comes via mobile devices, with 54 percent from smartphones alone. This exceeds IBM’s most recent Holiday Readiness report, in March, which reported mobile traffic to retail websites reached an average of 47.4 percent, and mobile sales reached 24.4 percent.
It follows that creating digital experiences that work just as well on mobile is essential to converting that traffic. NY&C used design elements within the Creator platform to do just that. The following are two quick tips:
- use vertical scrolling so that experiences work well in a mobile context; and
- take advantage of a handheld screen and "go big" on images, maximizing the visual impact of campaigns on the smallest of screens.
2. Bring new content to market often: Fashion and apparel retailers, perhaps more than any others in the retail space, need to update their online properties continuously. New product lines, inventories and seasonal changes mean that new campaigns — i.e., online visual merchandising — need to be created within quick turn cycles.
NY&C is no different. Fresh campaigns are a key strategy in ensuring that visitors return to the site — and keep returning — to check out what’s new. The old NY&C cycle included a major site update every 10 weeks to 12 weeks and new collections every three weeks. Prior to deploying Creator, major site updates would typically take three months from ideation to publishing. The level of complexity in planning ahead, producing the creative, coding, bug fixing and publishing was restrictive.
With Creator, the whole process of creating and publishing major new retail experiences across NY&C’s digital channels is shortened dramatically. As a result, NY&C has seen a 400 percent increase in creative output and reduced the length of time to create and publish experiences from a minimum of three months to less than 10 hours.
The result? More sales as customers return frequently to view updated content.
3. Value independence – and simplicity: Retail marketers are all challenged by interdependencies with other stakeholders (internal or external) to turn design concepts into deployable code within tight time, resource and budgetary constraints. In fact, in the webinar, when referring to having to do new or modified campaigns, Carroll said: “Coding and IT were fear-creating words for me … I thought this is going to take weeks and weeks, if it even happens or is in the budget to be developed.”
Furthermore, retail marketers rely upon colleagues and team members to get the work done. In this setting, there’s no room for employee transitions, lengthy learning curves or the dreaded week-long off-site training session.
Carroll shared a story of an employee leaving NY&C, and he suddenly was responsible for developing and deploying new creative experiences to the site. Disaster? Not with Creator. Within two hours of training, he was proficient with the tool. Remember, no coding required. And for NY&C, this independence and simplicity means a newfound freedom to create.
4. Don’t limit your imagination; it’s a competitive advantage: Part of the freedom to create is the ability to experiment with new ideas. Creative ideas aren’t always a matter of flicking a switch; they often happen on-the-fly or as a result of trial and error. Online, that presents an obvious problem — capturing creative ideas within the constraints of a development process is frustrating.
Creator allows those moments to be quickly translated into web experiences because it inverts the development process and expedites deploying new content to the website, where the real learning occurs based on how customers engage — or not engage — with content. As a result, NY&C’s creative output has increased by 400 percent.
“It’s a great place for the company to take the unique content that we produce and do something creative with it,” Carroll said. “As a creative person, I’m freed up now and independent of IT and development to create whatever I can imagine. Before Creator, there was no way that we could do this.”
5. Rich content wins: For the fashion industry, perhaps more than any other, investment in powerful creative is a priority.
Richness (as I explain here) takes that concept one step further, balancing visual impact and easy consumption — immersing the consumer in powerful images and combining that experience with intuitive design elements to make an experience transactional: "Shop the Look" or a "Buy Now" button displayed during the first moments a consumer visits your site.
For NY&C, understanding how to combine these elements has helped the company successfully reach an increasingly mobile audience, build online sales and free up its creative processes. Richness and the consumer journey are now right at the heart of its online experience, whether that’s via a tablet, smartphone or desktop.
Creator beat all expectations both creatively and financially. NY&C pegs its investment in the Creator platform as a greater than 20 to one return on investment. Now that’s pretty impressive.
Brian Rigney is the CEO of Zmags, a digital content marketing platform.
Brian Rigney, CEO of Zmags, has over twenty years’ experience leading high performing, entrepreneurial teams in launching new businesses and bringing innovative new products to market. For more information on Zmags, please visit their website and follow the company on LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter.