BabyGuess Makes Its Online Arrival

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After introducing its adult and children's brands online, apparel and accessories retailer Guess Inc. delivered BabyGuess.com this week.


Targeting parents and families of newborns, infants and toddlers, the site's launch came only weeks after fellow multichannel retailer Toys 'R' Us Inc. debuted Babiesrus.com. Both are attempts to snag a greater share of the estimated $17 billion juvenile product category.


Unlike Babiesrus.com and other baby-focused e-tailers, BabyGuess will stick solely with selling.


"BabyGuess.com is strictly sales-driven," said Courtney Amann, marketing manager at Guess.com Inc., Los Angeles. "You will not see any specific editorial content on the site at this time as you do in Guess.com and Guesskids.com."


That stance acknowledges the time constraints and pressures of its target audience. This, in itself, was motivation to quickly expand BabyGuess products beyond the chain's traditional mall venue.


"Convenience is key to expectant mothers and families that do not have quick access to shopping villages in smaller towns across the U.S.," Amann said. "[Also,] families are recognizing the convenience of shopping online rather than taking the whole family to the department store."


Positioned as an online destination for fashionable baby wear, BabyGuess.com will get all available marketing support from its parent's offline and online properties. This includes prominent tabs on Guess.com, which was launched in May 1999, and the 5-month-old Guesskids.com.


To this end, Guess will marshal all resources: mentions in print ads; banner ads and partnerships with shopping portals; pitches to members in its online database; support from 160 Guess family stores through postcards; linking between Guess sites; and an online gift registry that will be part of store kiosks.


Debut incentives include free shipping for a limited time with any online purchase. A database-building Goodnight, Sleep Tight Sweepstakes will run through Aug. 15 for a free baby bedding set.


Guess also wants to partner with sites that have experienced shoppers as well as users looking not only to browse for baby products, but also to buy, Amann said. But these partners' sites have to be as sales-focused and uncluttered as BabyGuess.com.


"It's absolutely essential to make the online shopping experience at BabyGuess.com pleasant, easy to navigate and fast -- rather than adding too many bells and whistles which confuse the user and distract them from making a purchase," Amann said.


BabyGuess.com faces stiff competition from Gap Inc.'s babyGap.com, eToys' BabyCenter.com, BabyGear.com, Parent Soup, iBaby and ParentsPlace. There is also The Children's Place and Babiesrus.com, whose offline sibling last year posted sales of $1 billion through 135 stores nationwide.


Add to that the inherent disadvantages of selling apparel online -- including consumer concerns about size and fit, color accuracy, and feel of the fabric.


Yet this does not stymie BabyGuess.com, Amann said. Visitors to BabyGuess.com can access size charts and detailed product views, features common to most apparel retailers that sell online.


"Baby clothing rarely needs to be tried on for size before making a purchase, which, of course, is another advantage in the online baby apparel market," she said, adding that "size is usually in the top three reasons for [apparel] returns."
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