With a new e-commerce site called Stylebureau, PVH is hoping to siphon sales away from wholesale partners and get customers to shop its brands directly.

On Stylebureau.com, which was designed by the agency Firstborn, customers can shop inventory across all PVH brands: Calvin Klein, Tommy Hilfiger, Izod, Van Heusen and Eagle. For now, the focus is on men’s dress shirts and ties. The new platform is meant to imitate the experience of shopping in a department store, with a new universal fit guide (simplifying across-brand differences in terms like “regular” fit and “classic” fit) and a tie-matching tool. A visual search algorithm runs through all available pattern and color options across the five brands — about 300 in total — and serves up complementary shirt-and-tie combinations.

Along with the Stylebureau launch, Izod and Van Heusen — categorized as PVH’s “heritage” brands that are largely wholesale and live in the shadow of Calvin Klein and Tommy Hilfiger — are getting their first e-commerce sites. Through tabs at the top of the Stylebureau site, customers can toggle to different categories within each brand.

“We see [the site] as an opportunity to interact directly with our core consumer and provide them with a brand-centric shopping experience,” said Ken Duane, CEO of PVH Heritage Brands. “We saw a smart opportunity to provide consumers with a centralized platform that brings our brands to life in the ways they shop — by brand or moment in time (wedding, business presentation, weekend) — and helps them connect the dots to complete looks quickly.”

With personalized recommendations, a fit finder and visual search, Stylebureau is PVH’s modern commerce play for direct sales. Right now, digital sales account for 20 percent of overall PVH revenue. In getting customers to the site, PVH faces an uphill battle in fighting off SEO share from its department store partners, but the company said it plans to route marketing dollars behind promoting the site on social media and in emails.

“This site is meant to expand the customer base that already shops these brands directly,” said Jennifer Xin, creative director at Firstborn. “What PVH wanted to do was experiment, gather customer data and test out new product mixes. They never had access to that customer behavior data before.”

Forming direct relationships with customers is becoming table stakes for brands that were once able to rely on wholesale channels for sales and marketing. Across all of its brands, PVH has been tightening up on inventory sold to retail partners like Macy’s in order to avoid markdowns, so the launch of Stylebureau is a bid to make up for lost sales. In menswear in particular, customers have gotten accustomed to shopping modern brands online that specialize in fit tools, like Indochino and Bonobos.

“There’s a lot that needs go right today — sites have to perfect the checkout experience, they have to be mobile optimized, they have to convey fit properly, and they have to have great imagery,” said Xin. “It’s a learning lesson for a lot of these companies because for so long, you were able to overlook what’s now become so important. It’s not even just about a good experience, but it’s about your brand speaking and communicating to the customer in design and the feel of the website. It’s about building an experience.”

By uniting the brands on one platform, with one customer database, universal checkout and fit model, the idea is that there will be power in numbers. Rather than forcing a customer base that’s accustomed to shopping in a multibrand, department-store setting to seek out and shop the same brands individually, Stylebureau recreates a similar shopping experience under the PVH umbrella.

The challenge will be establishing individual brand stories that resonate with today’s customers. Wholesale brands are often lacking that critical emotional tie, said Xin. To build an emotional pull into each site — Stylebureau, Izod and Van Heusen — Firstborn designed the homepage of each to behave differently depending on the season, individual user and current campaign push. For instance, customers who visit from Los Angeles will see a different set of products than customers who visit in New York in the winter. Content around topics like styling and brand heritage will be personalized to different customer groups as well.

“Before this, all these brands had were marketing sites — no e-commerce, they just pushed you out to Macy’s or other department-store sites,” said Xin. “This is about taking over control of that journey.”

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