May 2, 2005, 12:00 AM

Crossing the Channel

(Page 2 of 3)

Regular customers who have opted in for e-mail marketing messages, for instance, may receive automated e-mails packaged with automated telephone calls alerting them of the special offer in their e-mail inbox. The Ecometry platform has a built-in e-mail management system that automatically sends order confirmation notices when customers place orders online, and that can be configured to trigger marketing e-mails based on customer activity.

Promotional messages are also distributed in coordinated e-mail, printed circulars, direct mail pieces, package stuffers and notes in online store locators. “If we’re offering a 15%-off promotion in stores in the Northeast, a customer could get a postcard and an e-mail, and on the web site we’ll have a kicker to show that promotions are in stores,” Matthies says. Shoppers on Ross-Simons.com can also click on the site’s store locator to see information on the same promotions at individual stores, such as a message that all items are discounted 15% for a particular time.

Ross-Simons will run six to eight e-mail campaigns a month for all three channels, with product images in e-mail messages similar to those in coordinated printed circulars, Matthies says.

It also promotes online coupons or gift certificates that can be used for online purchases or printed out for use in stores. To promote the use of gift certificates during peak periods like Christmas and Valentine’s Day, Ross-Simons will promote them ahead of time in e-mail. “We started doing that last year, and it worked well for Christmas,” Matthies says.

Coordinating inventory

Another advantage of using the single Ecometry platform is being able to coordinate inventory records in each channel. One of the biggest challenges of running promotions is having the right amount of stock available to meet demand. With the Ecometry system, if a customer orders over the web or through the call center a $2,000 gold ring that isn’t available in the fulfillment warehouse, the platform can instantly recognize, for instance, that the ring is available from stock in a particular store and automatically forward the order to that store for fulfillment. The customer would then receive an e-mail confirming the order and shipment date.

When online orders are forwarded to stores, the customer receives an initial message on the web that the requested product is not immediately available online but that it will be processed as soon as possible. “The customer will be pleasantly surprised when the order is quickly fulfilled by a store and they get a confirmation that the order has been shipped,” Matthies says.

The system also supports orders placed through Ross-Simons’ call center. A customer service rep taking an order for the $2,000 ring could quickly check availability throughout the store chain and forward the order over the web for next-day fulfillment.

Ecometry expects to offer even higher levels of integration to support multi-channel marketing through its future association with Blue Martini Software Inc., which is being acquired by Ecometry parent Multi-Channel Holdings Inc. The deal is expected to close this quarter.

If a customer registered in a retailer’s loyalty program is about to lose her loyalty status due to lack of purchases, for example, a Blue Martini application integrated with Ecometry customer data may automatically e-mail the customer with a special offer to remain in the program, says Monte Zweben, founder and CEO of Blue Martini. “That’s one example of closely watching customers and contacting them when it’s most important to the retailer,” he says.

Store pick-up

Another service of tighter integration, he adds, is presenting online shoppers the option of selecting items in a shopping cart for a scheduled in-store purchase. A shopper carting several apparel or jewelry items, for instance, might decide that she’d rather first try on an expensive suit or ring and talk to an in-store sales rep in person before completing the purchase for it. “The online shopping basket can include a button that asks if the shopper would like to see particular items in a local store with help from a personal shopping assistant, giving times when the assistant is available,” Zweben says.

The in-store assistant would then prepare to show the requested items along with additional ones for potential cross-selling, and reply with a personal e-mail welcoming the shopper to the store. If the customer doesn’t respond, the system can automatically send a follow-up e-mail promotion. “This kind of service will become state-of-the-art in multi-channel customer experiences within a year or two among higher-end retailers, then trickle down to the middle tier, because everyone will expect this level of service,” Zweben says.

Famous Footwear, in an effort to keep a step ahead of its competition, is using web analytics to monitor customer response to multi-channel marketing and identify hot trends. Sales are up 15-20% for products identified in trends, Bledsoe says. “The web allows us to identify and react to trends, helping our overall online sales and to some extent in stores, too,” he says.

The retailer uses HBX analytics software from WebSideStory Inc. to monitor and analyze how shoppers are using its web site. The web operation shares that information with stores to help identify fast-moving products. “We get a good picture in real time of what products and categories shoppers are visiting and what they’re buying,” Bledsoe says.

Famous Footwear analyzes web traffic right after it distributes its weekly printed advertising circulars in stores and newspapers. “We expect to see an online sales boost from the circulars,” Bledsoe says. The circulars prominently display references to FamousFootwear.com.

Cross-channel sharing

If a particular product featured in the circulars is getting a large amount of online traffic, Famous Footwear will re-work its online merchandising to display it and related products more prominently, producing even larger sales, Bledsoe says. At the same time, Bledsoe will forward data on online buying trends to stores, so they can take advantage of real-time data to emphasize displays of hot-selling products.

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