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Ralph Lauren: Mobile bridges online commerce with in-store experiences

NEW YORK ? Ralph Lauren has used mobile as a way to bridge online commerce with in-store experiences, allowing the luxury brand to pave the way with today's modern and affluent consumers, according to a company executive at the NRF 101st Annual Convention & Expo.

During the ?Keeping the brand modern? keynote presentation, an executive from Ralph Lauren spoke about what the company has done to embrace technology for savvy consumers while still maintaining the allure of a luxury brand. The session was moderated by Lori Mitchell-Keller, senior vice president of retail line of business at SAP, Washington.

?Our technology uses is about our brand saying we are in the Internet business and there is a place to buy expensive, glamorous clothes online,? said David Lauren, executive vice president of advertising, marketing and corporate communications, New York.

?When we started on the Internet, Ralph Lauren was not an appropriate brand to tell stories online,? he said.

Mobile for RL
The retailer has both mobile apps for its brands as well as a mobile Web site. By using mobile, the company has been able to target consumers of particular brands and tie their mobile experience to an in-store engagement.

To help users interact with Ralph Lauren?s RLX brand, the retailer tapped mobile with an engaging iPad app that users could play with to see the clothes in the collection.

According to Mr. Lauren, Ralph Lauren was one of the first retailers to place QR codes on its print advertising materials when the technology was fairly new to both the United States and Europe after learning about the mobile bar codes on a trip to Japan.

Additionally, for the Rugby brand, which is aimed at younger consumers aged 18 ? 27, Ralph Lauren used an app to let shoppers create and buy a personalized shirt. Users could then send their customized piece to be projected in the store window of Rugby?s New York location where consumers could shop the window.

In addition to the Rugby initiative, Ralph Lauren has used technology to create shoppable windows at the brand?s other stores and tapped into 4D technology for a special event that brought Ralph Lauren flagship stores in New York and London to life in Nov. 2010.

Savvy luxury
During the session, Mr. Lauren outlined the company?s tech innovations and explained how each digital initiative fit in with the retailer?s more traditional marketing channels.

?We do not just sell clothes, we sell a lifestyle that is exciting,? Mr. Lauren said.

?By buying a shirt, it gives you a spirit that Ralph Lauren writes through his clothes with stories that are meant to inspire you,? he said.

The Ralph Lauren Web site was created 11 years ago and was one of the first luxury retailers to transition its brand to an online commerce experience.

?When we opened online, many thought it would be the end of our retail business and would cannibalize our sales,? Mr. Lauren said.

?We had to fight to say it would be good platform to build the Ralph Lauren story on,? he said.

Ralph Lauren?s digital marketing efforts revolve around ?merchantainment? or combining merchandising and entertainment for consumers.

According to Mr. Lauren, Ralph Lauren was the first major luxury retailer to create a digital style guide with tips, photographs and user questions on Ralph Lauren?s products and how to style them.

For the tenth anniversary of, the retailer used fourth-dimensional technology to create a show for shoppers that emphasized the classic but tech-savvy direction of the brand.

Per Mr. Lauren, the video from the event generated 400 million impressions and 2 million video plays.

Ralph Lauren has used various digital channels to editorialize content, including a branded quarterly magazine that gives users trend reports and articles meant to highlight the retailer?s current product line.

Ralph Lauren also created a Web initiative for its Lauren brand that used top editors at fashion magazines to walk users through the brand?s current collection and let users shop looks directly.

Online luxe
In addition to different campaigns, Ralph Lauren has used partnerships and advertising to bolster its digital repertoire.

For instance, in September Ralph Lauren used the month of September to control sole advertisement  on the New York Times iPad app.

?Again, it is about bringing merchandising and entertainment together to take you right into the Ralph Lauren world,? Mr. Lauren said.

The New York Times ads featured a live fashion show and also let users buy items directly without clicking through to the retailer?s mobile Web site.

Last year, Ralph Lauren launched its online-only brand Denim & Supply, and the company is only advertising with online spots, which is unique for a luxury brand.

Ralph Lauren has also used digital initiatives to bolster its Pink Pony Charity and has raised more than 486 million impressions via print, online and broadcast advertising.

Despite its digital push, Mr. Lauren stressed the importance the online and mobile initiatives must play in an overall marketing initiative for luxury brands.

?The Internet does not work without anything else and you need multiple ways to do it and enhance everything else,? Mr. Lauren said.

?It is about showing the customer something they do not already know,? he said.

?It has to get the consumer really excited, and has to try to understand the customer and the message of the brand.?