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Internet Retailing 2010: Focus on

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In this week’s preview of Internet Retailing 2010, our annual conference, we meet Sarah Curran, founder and chief executive of

Curran, a former journalist, founded with her husband Andrew in 2006, to specialize in ‘accessible luxury’ designer womenswear brands. Since 2009 the company has also added a menswear site. has won recognition for its customer service – its latest award was for Best Customer Experience at the Drapers Etail Awards 2010.

At Internet Retailing 2010, on October 12, Curran will be speaking in Track 1, Captivating the Customer. Her subject is Engaging through Innovation. We caught up with her ahead of the event.

Internet Retailing: At Internet Retailing 2010 you’re speaking on Captivating the Customer. How do you captivate your customers, and how would you advise others to do the same thing?

Sarah Curran: Captivating the customer is about commerce, content and community. You have to create a stickiness and a reason for your customers to keep coming back. Products are important for that but so too is content – it’s so important. It’s about creating the stickiness: why does a customer want to come and watch My-TV, read trend advice and all these things?

It’s key to creating the community feel so the customer feels that she belongs and that it’s relevant to her. Women are very much driven by loyalty to stores – if you look, you might buy a Mulberry bag one time, an Anya Hindmarch next, a Lulu Guinness the next, but you will always buy it in the store where you feel you belong. And that’s really, really key to the experience so you have to make sure your content is absolutely relevant to the audience you’re trying to target.

That’s also why it’s really important that you don’t appeal to too broad an audience because then you’re not appealing to anyone. The younger customer won’t feel it’s relevant and neither will the older. So understanding your customer and who she is in the first place is absolutely key to doing that.

IR: Who is your customer?

SC: She’s a 30-something. She’s a professional, she might have kids but she’s back at work, and she’s very independent, strong-minded, she has a sense of her own style so she isn’t a slave to trends and wearing what celebrities are. She wants to know about the trends, she doesn’t necessarily want to wear it head to toe but she wants to have that information.

IR: is known for innovation – what are your favourite innovations on the site?

SC: The key was one My-TV – what was really important with My-TV was that it’s a way of getting trend advice across to the customer away from the written word. The moving content is really key to that. It was something that hadn’t been done in that way before. In the second phase of development we introduced the he ability to click to buy from streaming video. It has been really successful.

Innovation for me is not necessarily about 3D or technologies, it’s about innovation in browsing experience. I think you have to be very careful if you think of innovation as being tech-led rather than experience-led – you might alienate your customer. You don’t want to scare someone in terms of navigation and making things tricky. The simpler the better – but pushing the experience and the boundaries as well. The browsing experience is what does the trick and that’s what we aim to do.

IR: Is it harder for an online-only retailer to have that relationship with a customer? Is there more work to be done at your end?

SC: No, not really. We probably know more about our customers than a lot of bricks and mortars because we can see their habits. There’s very much a strong pattern in customer behaviour so we know when she comes to the site, what she likes to read, what brands she likes. I probably know more about my customer than a lot of bricks and mortar stores know about theirs.

IR: What do your customers tend to head for?

SC: ‘New In’ is by far the most visited part of the site. Online, you can show the new-in offer much more quickly than a department store or boutique can. You find a lot of customers cyberstalk, so they know what day their favourite etailer goes live with new products. People want that newness but an equally important part is then to give visibility to other products that maybe got delivered a month ago. Merchandising or searchandising is key to keep getting eyes to those products.

IR: What advice would you give to other online retailers, drawn from your own experience?

SC: Know who your customer is. Know her or him. That is so important. Because any confusion is where the problem lies.

For more information about Internet Retailing 2010 or to register, visit

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