Glamour's Virtual Dressing Room Draws Readers, Advertisers

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Conde Nast Publications-owned Glamour magazine's attempts to draw readers online to try advertisers' clothes in a virtual dressing room are gaining acceptance.


In the year since the program began in conjunction with My Virtual Model, brands like Levi Strauss & Co.'s Dockers, Nike and L'Oreal's Matrix have signed on. Some are returning after seeing a correlation between ads in Glamour and traffic at www.glamour.com.


"The challenge I'm addressing on the business side is to help ensure that an advertiser who invests in Glamour realizes a benefit beyond the pages of the magazine," said Suzanne Grimes, vice president and publisher of Glamour, New York.


"They actually reach out and touch Glamour readers and know that they've actually tried on the fashion," she said. "And that is much more of what is typically expected of a magazine. So we not only communicate their message to a reader, we also help try to close the sale for them, and that's the key."


The numbers back the claim. A Denim Try-On editorial feature on denim items from Glamour's August issue resulted in 42,088 online visitor sessions, 640,739 models or profiles created and 17,981 try-ons.


And back in August 2002, the same denim feature generated 54,313 sessions, 7,168 models created in that month and 265,496 try-ons.


Similarly, a magazine editorial feature called "Dress Your Body Annual Swimsuit Try-ons and Fashion Workbook" garnered heavy traffic online in May. The online dressing room logged 167,507 sessions that month, and 79,211 models were created. A whopping 3,004,039 try-ons were clocked.


Most important for that issue, the dressing room featured swimsuits for real women and real body types. After all, consumers had to build their body types online to create a password-protected virtual model. They entered measurements, height, weight, face structure, hair and skin color and eye shape.


"We're not trying to make every single outfit look great on women," Grimes said, alluding to the realistic nature of the try-out.


Even the sponsored dressing rooms were popular. Dockers' products advertised in the December 2002 issue in the "Dress Your Body" section produced reader interest. They attracted 58,314 visitor sessions, 12,994 models were created and 392,148 try-ons were recorded.


Likewise, Nike sponsored its spring fashions and Matrix its hair colors and styles in the March issue. Combined, that led to 243,956 sessions, 63,874 models and 1,872,461 try-ons.


Glamour expects heavy response to its Fall Trend Try-on, currently accessed by clicking the button on glamour.com's home page. The jeans trial continues, too.


Also, Wal-Mart currently is inviting Glamour readers to see what they look like in their wear before hitting the retailer's stores. This invitation is part of Wal-Mart's new aggressive strategy to chase younger, trend-loving consumers as evident from its television commercials.


Glamour does not disclose monthly unique visitors to its site. But the 64-year-old title claims a monthly circulation of 2.24 million copies and a total readership of 12 million, including 3 million college-age women. These numbers clearly help swell the response to online features.


For Glamour, the virtual dressing room is a critical measure of the publication as an ideal environment for advertising. Not only does the program gauge consumer response and valuable research data to the latest fashions. It also features links to the displayed brands' sites.


Glamour.com will not sell items directly. Its configuration does not allow handling of transactions beyond subscriptions, product inventory and returns.


"It's not an e-commerce-driven program," Grimes said. "If an advertiser has their own Web site with e-commerce, then we can link them from the virtual dressing room to their site. I'm not in the business of selling. I'm in the business of publishing."


The virtual dressing room is free to advertisers, offered as an added value. Glamour's exclusive arrangement with My Virtual Model, Montreal, precludes other women's magazines from using its technology. Advertisers, however, can go straight to My Virtual Model, though they pay for the service.


What also works in Glamour's favor is the editorial imprimatur. Magazine editors chose the apparel and styles, directing readers to glamour.com. My Virtual Model shoots the images and places them in the Virtual Dressing Room.


The online dressing room is an evolution of an original Glamour mission to offer figure-flattery. The magazine is confident that readers -- affluent, educated women in their 30s living on both coasts -- appreciate the service. So are advertisers. Lucky Brand Jeans will sponsor a dressing room in the November issue. Dockers and DuPont Lycra, too, will sponsor in December or January.


The Glamour online dressing room helps connect the dots between advertising, product trial and a purchase in stores, online or by telephone.


"It's hard to get consumers into retail stores," Grimes said. "There's very little retail traffic, and it's very hard to get the customer engaged."


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