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Wet Seal bets on Oink, Fanreel and Tumblr to boost mobile commerce

Teen fashion retailer Wet Seal is ramping up its mobile strategy in the second quarter via a new payments partnership with Oink, an integration with Fanreel to showcase user-generated images on its Web site and a big Tumblr push.

With more than 50 percent of its Web site traffic now coming from mobile, Wet Seal recognizes the need to create exciting new experiences for its smartphone-savvy customer base. At the same time, with mobile transactions lagging desktop, the retailer is also focused on ways to streamline smartphone shopping.

“Wet Seal has done a tremendous job to develop authentic mobile-first content that resonates with the teen demographic,” said Leslie Hall, president of Iced Media, New York. “Most notably is the brand’s early adoption of Snapchat, a proven platform to reach savvy teens on their social network of choice.
“Iced Media works with a range of online retailers spanning from teens to milenials to new moms and beyond,” she said. “We see mobile adoption rates over 50 percent across a variety of these genres but I would agree that teens, considered mobile natives, are always at the higher end of this spectrum.”

Ecommerce jump
In a conference call with analysts to discuss first quarter results, Wet Seal executives discussed the gains the company has made on the ecommerce front, with ecommerce sales up 8.4 percent during the quarter and representing 6.8 percent of sales.

Despite these gains, overall it was not a strong quarter.

Wet Seal last week reported a quarterly financial loss of $21.8 million, or 26 cents per share.

The retailer also saw a drop in sales, which declined 17 percent for a total of $116.7 million. Same-store sales declined 16.9 percent.

While mobile would seem like a no-brainer for teen retailers, giving that their target audience are among the heaviest mobile users, several traditional retailers in this category have struggled on mobile by focusing too heavily on commerce and not enough on building interactive in-store and loyalty efforts (see story).

Mobile payments
The retailer has been focused on fine-tuning its email, texting and retargeting efforts, which is translating to a positive impact on traffic on conversion. Specifically, mobile now represents more than half of the traffic to

However, the highest conversion rates are coming from desktop.

In the second quarter, Wet Seal will become the featured merchant on Oink and begin offering its payment technology.

Oink is a mobile and desktop payment solution for teens and families.

“We think that this is a great add-on for our customers, many of whom cannot transact online because they don’t have credit or debit cards,” said John Goodman, CEO of Wet Seal, during the conference call.

“The service essentially acts as a PayPal for minors and student customers who will have the ability to use it for in-store payments as well,” he said.

User-generated content
Wet Seal will also introduce Fanreel, from Curalate, on its Web site, enabling it to integrated fan generated photos into its product pages. The solution is optimized for both noble and desktop.

“This is an innovative concept that is designed to make fans feel more connected to their favorite brands, drive affinity and inspire purchasing,” Mr. Goodman said.

Wet Seal is also establishing Tumblr on Wet Seal and Wet Seal Plus, with a dedicated effort create engaging content for the site.

“Our customers are avid users of Tumblr, which makes us an obvious place for us to deploy resources,” Mr. Goodman said.

“Social media continues to play a critical role in our marketing efforts,” he said. “And we are utilizing this to help us establish Wet Seal as a relevant brand among our core teen customer.”

Wet Seal recently began using social analytics tools to provide key metrics around social patterns, most engaging content and follower growth.

“[To grow mcommerce, the retailer should] launch a Wet Seal mobile application, employ a strong content strategy to continue to engage consumers on platforms with high teen adoption, SMS and retargeting campaigns on mobile, and a keen focus on social SEO to rank high for trending generic keywords and key phrases,” Iced Media’s Ms. Hall said.

Final Take
Chantal Tode is associate editor on Mobile Commerce Daily, New York