March 4, 2014
As the Internet has put all the world’s wares just a mouse-click away, private shopping sites are proving that customers are willing to put in the extra effort for exclusivity and personalization.
Frank & Oak’s simple mission “is to help a generation of men dress and live well,” and private sales functionality gave them a way to bring style to their customers by tailoring product merchandising and marketing to customer needs. Since their 2012 launch, Frank & Oak has attracted more than one million members. And, though it is free, every customer has to create an account and specify their style and sizing preferences to shop.
Exclusivity Branding and Tailoring Choices
On sites selling branded merchandise available at other online retailers, like new Apple iPhones or Nike shoes, the required engagement with the customer is relatively low. Customers know what they want before coming to the store, so, for the most part, these stores differentiate themselves on shipping speed, customer service, and price. The key for them is to capture the immediate impulse to purchase, and, often, the customer will make the purchase on their first visit. These stores focus on removing friction along the path to purchase, even allowing customers to check out without creating an account (the very opposite of a private shopping site).
At the other end of the spectrum are the longer-fuse or “considered” purchase decisions. These types of purchases are often big-ticket products or high-end items for connoisseurs, sometimes from lesser-known and emerging brands.
Members-only sites are perfect for these products and for the stores that carry them because they create a sense of exclusivity. Customers are more than willing to work a little harder to get something no one else has, but also for the feeling that the products have been tailored to their personal tastes.
Beyond Exclusivity and Personalization
Any store can take advantage of a private website. Many merchants use private sales to liquidate inventory, capitalize on special inventory purchase opportunities, discount without violating minimum advertised price (MAP) requirements, or even to ration hot products. Private sites are also a great way to offer special pricing to members of loyalty programs and specialized customer classes like wholesalers. Here are three good strategies to get started with a members-only website:
1. Keep the Sales (and the Emails) Simple
It’s especially important for stores with broader product lines to keep their private offerings simple. Though Frank & Oak is focused on menswear, they also ask customers to narrow their preferences (e.g. relaxed or casual style), so customers are sure to see only what they’re interested in buying.
2. Create Urgency
Adding urgency through limited-time or limited-quantity offers not only gives customers greater satisfaction in getting a deal, it also encourages them to keep an eye on your site and to look for your emails.
3. Take Advantage of Prominent Social Sharing
When customers sign up to join private shopping sites, there’s a great opportunity to connect with them socially, which leads to great organic traffic as their friends can see what they’re liking and buying. Be sure to feature share buttons prominently throughout. Deep social integration helps develop brand communities of like-minded people.
Frank & Oak is taking their social engagement a step further by rewarding customers for social sharing with store credits with their Share & Earn program where members are incentivized to invite their friends by earning $25 when that new friend shops for the first time. By giving your community a beautiful place to interact—across all venues and devices—that integrates with the social channels they’re already talking in, you can deliver an engaging and rewarding shopping experience.
Note that, if you’re on Magento Enterprise Edition, the permissions module easily allows you to use these strategies. If you’re not, test-drive the free demo to see how our private sales functionality works.
What Merchants Get for Their Efforts
The rewards that merchants reap come down to: 1) deeper customer engagement, and 2) loyalty. Frank & Oak is doubling down on its exclusive offering with its Hunt Club, a risk-free membership service offering perks like free shipping, 8% back in store credit, and free at-home try on (each month, Hunt Club members choose up to 3 items to try at home, and only pay for the clothing they keep). Delivering on-style options for young men looking to develop and define their style in this easy-to-love format has made the Hunt Club a huge success.
On top of social advertising, Frank & Oak has an opportunity to retarget their loyal customers with even more tailored offerings, creating a virtuous cycle of deeper customer engagement.
For more on successful customer engagement tactics, read our free eBook!