Smart Marketing Helps Plus-Size Retailer Grow

Wednesday Sep 7th 2005 by James Maguire

eBiz Profiles: A clothing e-tailer for plus-size women, Junonia works to create synergy between its catalog and online sales.

In the mid '90s, entrepreneur Anne Kelly saw that larger women were having a hard time finding attractive and well-made sports clothing. To meet their needs, Kelly founded Junonia, a company that describes its apparel line as "exclusively devoted to the 40 percent of American women who wear a size 14 and up."

Launched as a catalog-only business, the St. Paul, Minneapolis-based Junonia sends out six million catalogs a year. But since going online in 1999, half of its sales now flow through its online store.

On the way to becoming a successful e-tailer, Junonia has learned how to reach its online audience — particularly through e-mail marketing.

The company uses e-mail much more aggressively than it used to. "We were doing four-to-five e-mailings a month; now we do twice a week," says Tom Lindmeier, Junonia's e-commerce director.

"That's a lot of e-mails," Lindmeier concedes. But, as the company knows from its catalog business — it sends out 18, 56-page catalogs a year — if the content is good, customers don't mind the frequency. The trick is to provide the right mix of discount offers and product highlights, he says. And, "We treat our e-mail customers as preferred customers."

Getting Customers to Love E-mail Marketing
When Junonia started sending e-mails twice a week, it encountered some resistance from customers. But it has an ingenious technique to keep its shoppers on its mailing list.

"Before they hit the opt-out button, we say 'click here, and you can decrease the number of e-mails by 50 percent,'" Lindmeier says.

After using A/B testing heavily, the site retained much of its e-mail list. Particularly effective: Junonia often liquidates merchandise, so it sells some items at fire sale prices. These discount offers keep shoppers interested.

Customers "love bargains — they want to know what kind of deals we have," Lindmeier says.

Also important: the e-mails, no matter how frequent, maintain a "voice," a friendly, conversational tone. The mailings (and all the site's marketing) put the image of Anne Kelly in the forefront, stressing her accessibility.

"We always attach a letter from Anne," Lindmeier says, noting that the site never uses the "buy now" style of marketing.

"You have to think of the marketplace — and all of the noise out there — and find a way to get through it," he says.

Catalog-Web Synergy
"We work very hard at providing a synergy between the catalog and the Web site," Lindmeier says. Junonia schedules its e-mail campaigns and its catalog mailings to compliment each other.

Junonia creates Web-catalog synergy by printing a six-digit order number in the catalog. "If you enter the style number [at the site] it will bring you directly to the shopping cart, and the shopping cart shows an image of the item — it decreases the number of clicks, to make shopping efficient," Lindmeier says.

In its catalog business, Junonia uses a RFM formula (reach, frequency, and monetary) to determine which of its customers will be sent catalogs — it's too costly to send each mailing to every customer.

Junonia has succeeded by pursuing an underserved market and by savvy print-and-e-mail marketing.

But the site doesn't need to use this formula for its e-mail marketing. As Lindmeier says, stating one of the great truths of businesses that combine a print catalog with e-commerce: "Catalogs are very expensive to send out, but e-mail costs almost nothing."

Adapted from ECommerce-Guide.com, part of internet.com's Small Business Channel.

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