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Playtex Seeks Online Customer Feedback for New Line

Playtex Apparel Inc. will use the Internet for the first time through PlaytexBras.com to get consumers to help develop new products.

The lingerie maker seeks to involve fuller-busted women in the final development stages of launching a new line of full-figured hanging bras scheduled for spring 2002. It will offer rewards for online feedback.

“I think one of the key challenges we have is speed to market, and we have a lot of competitors who have recognized the same need in consumers that we do,” said Julie Roche, director of marketing and head of Internet activities at Playtex, Stamford, CT.

“What we're doing using the Internet is to very quickly and accurately get the information from the consumers in order to launch something that's going to meet their needs more quickly and better than the competition,” Roche said.

A division of Sara Lee Corp., Playtex is the leading branded manufacturer in the overall $4.5 billion bra category. It also is ahead of competitors VF Corp.'s Vassarette and Intimate Brands' Victoria's Secret in the full-figure bra segment, estimated at $1.9 billion.

The new line, still unnamed, is designed for larger women seeking bras with more benefits in terms of supporting comfort. Playtex agency Direct Impact Marketing Inc., Norwalk, CT, has developed a two-tier program to capture consumer feedback for the product's debut.

The first phase, which kicked off yesterday, is a pre-qualifying campaign. Via a pop-up window and animated text, visitors to PlaytexBras.com's home page are invited to answer roughly 10 questions and supply their e-mail addresses.

So if the respondent has a smaller bra size, then most likely she will not qualify. Another qualifier is the typically worn bra style.

“To ensure a statistically correct sampling, PlaytexBras.com data profiling will be conducted using ZIP code and other criteria,” said Olivier Leibowitz, managing director and vice president at Direct Impact.

The second phase, scheduled for July 25-27, is considered the centerpiece of the Playtex online research project. Qualified prospects from the first phase who have opted in will receive an HTML e-mail with an embedded questionnaire.

In this e-mail, consumers will be asked their opinions on several pre-selected product names for the new bra line. As an incentive for participating, these prospects will be offered a free bra in a choice of three colors from Playtex's existing line of common-style bras.

Once the survey is completed, consumers will be taken to a landing page where fulfillment data will be collected for delivery of the free bra. A thank-you page will follow.

“The tone and manner of this initiative is that Playtex Bras values its customers' input and is thankful for their time,” Leibowitz said.

The new, value-priced bra will retail in mass merchandisers such as Wal-Mart and Kmart stores.

“We have seen an explosion of interest in the full-figure fashion category, in particular,” Roche said. “In the past, full-figured consumers have not had the same options in terms of really beautiful bras that also have the functionality they need.”

Sara Lee also owns Hanes Her Way, Bali, Wonderbra and Just My Size.

With this online initiative, Playtex is banking on the willingness and enthusiasm of the estimated 1,300 unique visitors each day on PlaytexBras.com.

“We feel the consumer really is the one who knows the category and she's the one we're serving, and we wanted to be able to use the Internet in order to capture that consumer's voice and what she's looking for,” Roche said.

She added that the Internet “allows us to start establishing a relationship with them that can start here and only get better as we learn more about her and what she wants and then deliver the products.”

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