November 25, 2002, 12:00 AM

Housewares and Home Furnishings: Loading up the sites

(Page 3 of 4)

“In addition to being a vehicle that generates direct sales, the Internet is a great marketing channel and communications vehicle,” says Corey. “100% of the marketing budget used to be catalog. Though it went to the same great customers year after year, you need new reach vehicles. The Internet is that new reach vehicle.”

BombayCo.com

Date
September 1998
Unique Visitors
400,000/mo.
Design By
in-house
Site Search
EasyAsk Inc.
CRM
none
Affiliate Management
none
Fulfillment
Computer Solutions Inc.
Order Management
IBM Corp.,
Computer Solutions Inc.

Returns Liquidation

none
Web Analytics
Akamai Technologies Inc.
Payment Processor
IBM Corp.
Content Management
IBM Corp.
E-mail Management
Silverpop Systems Inc.

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Cooking.com
Recipe for success

Cooking.com CEO David Hodess does like to cook, but finds a good business prospect even more tasty. It was an interest in the possibilities of e-commerce that led him to launch the company with partner Tracy Randall in 1998 as one of the web’s earlier retail players.

The retail site is a perfect example of the power of the web. Hodess spied opportunity in the fact that high-end cooking gear wasn’t available everywhere in the brick-and-mortar world. “The distribution of cookware stores around the country is not uniform,” he says. “There are lots of places outside of bigger cities where it’s hard to find better cookware conveniently. If people want Henckels knives or All-Clad pans, we’re one of the attractive ways to get them.”

Part of Cooking.com’s strategy is an enormous selection, about 4,500 products at any time. It attracts serious cooks and gift-givers alike with an assortment that includes virtually every major manufacturer of better cookware as well as niche manufacturers of products that others don’t make-and many other retailers don’t sell. Hodess says Cook-ing.com’s success rate in getting the vendors it wants is 100%. “You should see even a broader assortment by the end of next year, with more breadth in our existing categories and probably some new categories as well,” he says.

The site breaks up its assortment with search by keyword, brand, category and price, as well as by grouping products for browsing under departments such as Gift Ideas and Specialty Foods. Appealing merchandising wraps products in timely ideas such as the recent fall “What’s Stirring” home page feature that grouped products for making soup behind a single link. Theme shops accessible under a home page tab offer more browsing.

The product selection, browsing options and extensive content including recipes could have overloaded the site, but the internally-created design strips away everything superfluous while leaving enough to please the eye and help shoppers navigate. “The senior management team laid out a set of objectives and our designers went to work,” says Hodess. “It’s an evolutionary process, and we watch closely where people click and spend their time.”

Privately-held Cooking.com has annual sales estimated at $25 million to $50 million. Hodess says the company anticipates profitability in the next year. After nearly five years, this dot-com survivor is reaping the benefits of what other starts-ups of the era only dreamed about having: a brand. “We simply provide good service and have built a brand name,” Hodess says. “People trust us, and that stands in our favor.”

Cooking.com

Date
September 1998
Unique Visitors
> 3 million/mo.
Design By
in-house
Site Search
in-house
CRM
none
Affiliate Management
LinkShare Corp.
Fulfillment
Catalyst Development Corp.
Order Management
in-house
Returns Liquidation
in-house
Web Analytics
none
Payment Processor
ClearCommerce Corp.
Content Management
none
E-mail Management
eGain Communications Corp.

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Crate and Barrel
Clean, consistent, close to the brand

Talk about carrying an image from one channel to another. No one does it better than Northbrook, Ill.-based Crate & Barrel. The upscale home furnishings retailer has been widely recognized since its web debut in 1999 as a master of replicating the brand online, but the company won’t rest. A re-design a year ago sought to make the channels connect even more tightly. “Our goal was to get closer to the brand,” says Joan King, Internet manager.

Crate & Barrel stores are epitomes of clean design where products stand out against neutral wood tones and minimalist shelving. The web site is much the same. “We minimized the design with not a lot of color in the background so merchandisers could tell the story with products,” King says. Just like in the store. “The Internet merchandisers work closely with the store merchandisers in types of products and timeliness,” she says.

Indeed, consistency of brand is one of Crate & Barrel’s strong points, says Jim Okamura, Chicago-based partner with consultants The J.C Williams Group. “They’re proud of their stores and they have worked hard at achieving brand consistency across channels,” he says.

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