November 25, 2002, 12:00 AM

Flowers, Gifts & Jewelry Part of the everyday shopping experience

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Self-service selection tools on the site are so effective that usability tests show they take customers from more than 13,000 stones down to 10 possibilities in only a few minutes. Even so, with the average customer viewing more than 300 pages, more than half of them at some point phone the call center. Staffed with diamond experts to answer questions and offer advice, it’s busy all day, but that’s fine with BlueNile, which features its toll free number on every page. For a key part of its strategy is to get the engagement ring buyer back for birthdays, anniversaries and other gift-giving occasions. “If we build a customer relationship over an engagement purchase, it’s such an important relationship that with that one purchase we feel we can hold onto the customer for a very long time,” Vadon says.

BlueNile.com

Date
November 1999
Unique Visitors
1 million/mo.
Sales
$6 million/mo.
Design By
in-house
Site Search
Inktomi
CRM
in-house
Affiliate Management
Be Free Inc.
Fulfillment
Oracle applications
Order Management
Oracle applications
Returns Liquidation
in-house
Web Analytics
in-house
Payment Processor
CyberSource Corp.
Content Management
in-house
E-mail Management
in-house

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Guild.com
If Van Gogh had e-mail

Medieval artisans had trade guilds to represent their interests; today, all they’d need is the Internet and Toni Sikes. Sikes, the founder of art publishing house Guild Publishing, launched Guild.com in 1999 as a way to increase consumers’ exposure to the artists Guild’s sourcebooks present to professional designers. Today, Guild.com is one of the largest online aggregations of original artwork for purchase, spanning disciplines from sculpture to jewelry and showcasing the work of some 800 artists-and some of the most beautiful gift objects on the web.

“Art and marketing have never gone together very well. As a result, consumers have so little access to the huge amount of talent out there,” Sikes says. “But I’ve always been convinced that if people could just see this wonderful work, they’d want it.”

Cybergallery Guild.com is out to make that happen, serving up 10,000 works by contemporary artisans in a sleek and easily searchable online offering. The multiple options for searching and browsing change by discipline as relevant. Shoppers can view the entire collection of paintings, for example, or segment it by price range, size, theme, or even color. Move to the jewelry category, however, and search options include material, jewelry type and price.

Guild drops more than 2 million catalogs a year, but they show a much smaller assortment than what’s online. The holiday catalog, for example, contains at most 300 products. “Catalogs would not be valuable if we did not have the web site because they drive people to the site,” says Sikes. “When we drop a catalog, not only do sales of what’s in the catalog increase, but so do other pieces by the same artists.”

The site’s front end is all about beauty but the back end is all business. Guild doesn’t have a warehouse and drop ships orders from the artists. It tracks inventory availability and order status with an extranet that networks all the artists it represents. “We don’t do business with artists who don’t have e-mail,” says Sikes.

When a customer orders either online or by phone, the system automatically generates and distributes a purchase order to the artist. Guild’s customer service staff can immediately see data on which items are ready for shipment or how many more the artist is willing to make of an out-of-stock item. Guild asks its artists to check e-mail several times a day.

Art site Guild.com becomes a gift site with the holidays, as the customer base broadens. “We get a greater number of people who may not consider themselves art buyers but who appreciate beautiful things and are looking for a wonderful gift,” Sikes says.

Guild.com

Date
Q2 1999
Unique Visitors
35,000/mo.*
Design By
in-house
Site Search
in-house
CRM
in-house
Affiliate Management
Commission Junction Inc.
Fulfillment
in-house
Order Management
in-house
Returns Liquidation
in-house
Web Analytics
Fireclick Inc.,
Keynote Systems Inc.
Payment Processor
VeriSign Inc.
Content Management
in-house
E-mail Management
Luhala Group
*As reported by comScore Networks Inc.

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Ice.com
A girl’s best friend

Internet jeweler Ice.com knows that buying a bauble is a favorite way for women to reward themselves-and it’s put together a stylish web site that makes that easier and less expensive than doing it at the mall. Three-year-old Ice.com knows its audience-mainly, women willing to spend $50 to $250 on an impulse purchase. And it’s assembled an online assortment of about 700 products at up to 70% below department store prices that serves up just what these shoppers want.

Customers can search by stone, by jewelry type and by price, but a key part of Ice’s success is in on-target merchandising. It knows that many shoppers don’t come to the site initially to search for a specific item, but to browse, so Ice sets out to spark ideas with collections such as “Cool Picks,” “What’s New” and “Bestsellers.”

And then it makes it easy to buy. This year, Ice.com added a multi-pay option that lets shoppers break up payments over several months. Research told the company that spreading out payment could boost sales significantly in its core audience.

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