Branding a Born Identity

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At the Internet Retailer Conference & Exhibition 2008 held in Chicago in June, many online and multichannel retailers discussed how they are engaging and creating a deeper relationship with consumers through new social media. But San Francisco-based Due Maternity was one retailer that stood out in the crowd with its innovative and practical Pregnancy Countdown Clock widget for expectant mothers.

Widgets are small interactive applications, ranging from games to news alerts, which can be downloaded onto host sites such as Facebook, iGoogle or even a desktop. These applications may be tiny, but the power and value of those executed properly can be big for any business looking to interact with customers on a whole new level. A desktop widget embraces the idea of bringing the site to users rather than waiting for them to take the initiative to visit a site. Due Maternity, a multichannel retailer with five boutique locations and an e-commerce site, does precisely this with creativity and ease.

An expectant mother can download Due Maternity’s animated clock that walks her through the months, weeks and days leading up to her delivery. First, the consumer picks either a blue or pink clock model before adding the baby’s name and due date to the face of the image. Due Maternity then provides relevant articles, information, products and coupons from its e-commerce site to the consumer, with content based on how far along she is in her pregnancy. The overall experience is fun and informative. More important, it helps to create a meaningful and trusted customer-retailer relationship.

More retailers are starting to look past traditional (and expensive) forms of advertising and marketing in the online space. Due Maternity’s Countdown widget, which launched in summer 2007, cost less than $1,000 to create. The small application, which was made through a widget-making tool on a Yahoo! platform, generates nearly $20,000 a month from pushes back to the site. Even more, the branding that is driven by having a daily presence in the lives of consumers is priceless.

Due Maternity also has a community page where consumers can share photos, read horoscopes, create a profile and post birth announcements. In addition, the retailer has another site called LookWhosPrego.com , where expectant moms can upload a picture of their face onto an animated body that dances around while eating a container of ice cream. They also can enter daily drawings and retrieve gift ideas for expectant mothers, initiatives designed to keep users checking the site.

Due Maternity is also looking to host widgets beyond the desktop to further reach consumers. The company is working with Branchburg, N.J.-based social-marketing company Adblade.com to create a widget for Facebook. Although Facebook users as a whole are still a bit too young to find a pregnancy-countdown widget relevant, Due Maternity is making its presence known in the social-networking universe by priming young users for when they might be ready to use it in the next few years.

Widgets can also be passed via recommendation to friends—and here is where retailers can cash in to grow their consumer base. According to a recent study released by Jupiter-Research, “Widgets: Delivering Applications Users Want,” online users are more likely to get widgets from friends rather than from the companies that developed the applications. Users between the ages of 18 and 24 are a whopping six times more likely to obtain widgets from friends than from a company.

Despite the fact that many consumers have not yet experimented with widgets, those who are using these applications have indicated that they use them often—and the adoption rate is expected to grow in time. Until then, widgets should be viewed as a part of a larger syndication and engagement strategy for retailers looking to hit a certain tech-savvy demographic, especially since the applications are easy to create and inexpensive to test.

That said, Due Maternity is already one step ahead of the game by embracing the infant—but fast-growing—world of widgets.

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