Victoria's Secret Plans Show-and-Sell Webcast

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Victoria's Secret has added features, such as the ability to order while watching models strut the new fall apparel, to the May 18 Webcast of its fashion show in Cannes, France. Its major challenge, however, will be to handle traffic better than it did for its February 1999 Webcast.


"Last year, the Webcast overwhelmed the entire Internet and brought it to a standstill," said Marcia Aaron, San Francisco-based managing director at Deutsche Bank Alex. Brown. "It was the biggest event that had ever happened on the Internet, and so they have to make sure they have the capacity to handle the traffic this time."


The February 1999 Webcast of its fashion show attracted 1.5 million visitors to www.VictoriasSecret.com. Including visitors to the archived Webcast, the event drew 3 million viewers.


Targeted marketing helped draw visitors for that show. A Super Bowl TV spot drew 1 million visitors within the hour, and banner ads across assorted Web sites delivered 4.5 million impressions during the campaign period.


Preparation for the May 18 Webcast, which is scheduled for 3 p.m. EDT, includes a tenfold increase in the total capacity of the site. The company also has added technology that will divert extra visitor traffic to an e-Lounge, Victoria's Secret-branded sites hosted on different servers that also will carry the Webcast.


For those who can't catch it live, the Webcast will be archived at the Victoria's Secret site for 60 days.


As it did last year, Yahoo will distribute the live online transmission, albeit this time through multicasting, or one stream that simultaneously reaches many viewers.


Among other partners, Akamai Technologies Inc. will host the e-Lounge; IBM Global Services is the Web host, and site traffic manager and Radware's gatekeeper technology will route overflow visitors to the e-Lounge.


Microsoft Corp. will be responsible for the e-commerce end of things, allowing viewers in the United States to shop while they watch the Webcast.


To shop while viewing, visitors must download free Microsoft Windows Media Players. Once the Webcast gets underway, a split screen will allow viewers to choose apparel and add the items to a shopping bag on the other side of the screen.


"You'll be able to add selections to your bag during the show, and select your color, size and quantity after the show, when you check out," said a statement on the fashion show Web page. Microsoft will handle programming for transactions at the checkout right after the Webcast.


Victoria's Secret promises to process all orders within 24 hours of the Webcast. Only U.S. orders will be accepted.


"The Webcast benefits [Victoria's Secret] because it's a combination of marketing to get the brand in front of people again," said Mark Friedman, first vice president at Merrill Lynch & Co., New York. "It's also an opportunity to buy products that consumers see and be able to buy conveniently, so I think it's a win-win for them."


Victoria's Secret's new online effort comes months after Limited Inc.'s Lane Bryant division in February had its own Webcast of a New York fashion show to introduce its Cacique line of mid-priced lingerie for plus-size women.


Owned by Columbus, OH-based Intimate Brands Inc., VictoriasSecret.com went live Dec. 4, 1998. Six hours later it got orders from 37 countries. The site now is among the top five apparel retailers online, according to Media Metrix and Nielsen NetRatings.


Intimate Brands, which refused comment for this article, won't disclose VictoriasSecret.com's contribution to the nearly $3 billion in multichannel sales reported by the brand last year. But it has acknowledged publicly that this online model will be used for Bath & Body Works, another company brand along with White Barn Candle Co.


Still, caution abounds with this latest Victoria's Secret Webcast. Visitors to the site are asked to test their system beforehand by clicking on two tabs, one for viewers who are expected to shop and see and the other for those who have no intention of buying during the Webcast.


Alex. Brown's Aaron said that this enhanced Webcast is likely to spur sales of the new product line. But while the traffic will be high, she isn't sure if Victoria's Secret will raise its online conversion rate -- shoppers who turn buyers -- to the apparel category average of 2 percent to 3 percent. The online store's conversion is not known.


"The conversion rate will be higher this time because you have the ability to buy," she said. "But I don't think that their conversion rates will ever be at any industry average because of the fact that you have so many people that go in just to look at the beautiful women."
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