November 14, 2002, 12:00 AM

How SmartBargains.com builds opt-in e-mail by 100,000 per month

With deeply discounted products selling out fast, signing up for e-mail alerts on new arrivals gives shoppers a jump on the competition.

SmartBargains.com is building its opt-in e-mail list at the rate of some 100,000 per month, CEO Carl Rosendorf tells Internet Retailer, and the company expects its permission-based list to reach 750,000 by December. The 2-year-old discount retailer fuels list development in part with a strategy that touts limited supply to sharpen shoppers’ interest–-and their determination, if aced out of a bargain, not to miss out in the future.

SmartBargains, which offers 2,000 to 2,500 brand name, deeply discounted products on its site per week, flags shoppers with blinking warnings of high run-out risk on items in product inventory, and flashes messages under products that have sold out, rather than removing them immediately from the site. Visitors are asked if they’d like to opt in to receive bargain alerts–-thrice-weekly e-mail messages that list SmartBargains’ latest arrivals. Some of the most in-demand merchandise sells out on click-through from the bargain alerts and never gets onto the web site–-which increases shoppers’ interest in receiving the alerts and providing their e-mail address.

Currently, SmartBargains does little customer segmentation for its e-mail campaigns, a point of differentiation from other retailers who seek to drive sales through segmentation based on customer history. “Most of our customers want to know the full breadth of what we have to offer. A bargain hunter is looking for bargains more than for specific products,” says Rosendorf. “Understanding that is key to understanding our business philosophy. It’s about the thrill of the hunt, and that feeds back to the energy we create around the site.”

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