Magazine Article | May 17, 2007

Specialty Retailer Uses Customer Surveys To Increase Repeat Business

Source: Innovative Retail Technologies

An online survey tool helps a seller of women’s outerwear learn about its customers’ buying habits and preferences.

Integrated Solutions For Retailers, June 2007

Founded in 1987, Manteaux Manteaux (French for "Coats Coats") is the largest seller of women's outerwear in the province of Quebec. The retailer, which has 37 stores in Quebec, offers a broad collection of coats and jackets for women in regular, petite, and plus sizes. Recently, Manteaux Manteaux opened its new Coats Co. Division, which has three stores in Ontario and New Brunswick. Throughout the fall and winter, the stores carry more than 100 fashionable outerwear styles sourced from all over the world, including well-known brands and private-label selections. In the spring and summer, Manteaux Manteaux offers a collection of casual weekend wear.

As a specialty store focusing on a product that most people only purchase once per year, Manteaux Manteaux wanted to improve the number of repeat purchases its customers make and get its coat-purchasing customers to think of the store as a source for summer apparel as well. "We wanted to develop a method by which we could have an ongoing communication with our customers," says Monte Perlman, VP of Manteaux Manteaux. "Ultimately, our goal was to bring them back into the store more often."

Perlman decided to invest in an online survey tool. After investigating a number of options, including the solution offered by the retailer's own Web site host, he decided to use iCongo Survey and Polling System. "There are any number of survey tools out there, including do-it-yourself versions," Perlman notes. "However, iCongo's solution works in a completely turnkey fashion. We were aware of other companies that had tried it successfully. And we had a short time frame in which we wanted to get the survey up and running, so we couldn't take a chance that it wouldn't work. We needed something bulletproof."

Online Surveys Reinforce Marketing Strategies
Using iCongo's survey tool, Manteaux Manteaux launched a customized online survey within a matter of months. The retailer designed the survey, keeping it brief — five to seven questions plus a section for general comments — so respondents wouldn't have to spend more than 2 minutes on it. Sixty-eight thousand store visitors were given the information necessary to participate in the survey in December 2006. Of those, 21,000 responded. As an incentive, everyone who responded was entered into a drawing for a grand prize of $1,000. Customers who made purchases when they received the survey information were rewarded with a $10 store gift certificate upon completing the survey.

iCongo set up the survey so that responding customers would be taken to one of four different links, depending on whether they selected English or French as the preferred language and whether they had made a store purchase prior to taking the survey (in order to receive the gift certificate). All of the information received from the respondents was delivered to a single, consolidated database.

Perlman particularly likes the fact that survey responses can be analyzed and compared in an almost infinite number of ways. For example, the retailer can isolate the respondents who own more than a given number of winter coats, then look at how those customers responded to the question about how many outerwear items they typically buy in a season. "We can access the information anytime," notes Perlman. "We can generate lists of customers based on their answers to specific questions and then send them targeted communications."

While Manteaux Manteaux has not identified any quantitative outcomes of the survey, Perlman cites several qualitative benefits. "First, we were able to confirm some important behaviors of our customers. We determined with some certainty how often they return to make repeat purchases and how many coats they own. We learned that our customers don't consider name brands to be as important as other factors when choosing outerwear." Just as significantly, Manteaux Manteaux learned that its core strategy of focusing on training and service is working. "We spend a lot of time training our employees on product knowledge," explains Perlman. "We strive to provide tremendous selection and unparalleled customer service. That's how we differentiate ourselves from our competitors. We confirmed that these are, in fact, important factors in customers' decisions to patronize our stores."

iCongo trained Manteaux Manteaux on how to use the survey tool, so the retailer can create, deploy, and manage its own surveys going forward. "The training took only a few days, and now we can put a survey up in a week's time," notes Perlman. The retailer intends to use this capability this summer to boost its connections with its summertime customers and learn more about their needs and interests.

"We've gained a great deal of insight about our customers through the survey tool," concludes Perlman. "It's given us information we are using to forge stronger relationships with our customers and generate additional sales."

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