May 31, 2006, 12:00 AM

The Fidelity Factor

(Page 2 of 2)

The redesigned site offers newly added features including customer reviews and alternate product views, and newly upgraded elements including site search and product information, images, comparison and zoom. Routinely redesigning and upgrading an e-commerce site is another strategy to help build customer loyalty-shoppers always can expect something new and different at such sites, whereas static sites can drive shoppers away, Jeffrey Wolfe adds.

Today Moosejaw’s customer loyalty strategies are paying off. Moosejaw Madness has increased repeat visitors by 30% and the average time spent on Moosejaw.com by 70%, according to company analysis. Further, 70% of customer feedback includes positive customer comments on their experience in the madness section. What’s more, sales of Moosejaw brand products, talked up by customers in the madness section, have markedly increased-year-to-date Moosejaw brand sales are up 67%. The house brand now ranks second in online sales to North Face, a well-known, national consumer brand.

And on a lighter note: “We get hundreds of responses to our online trivia question every day,” Jeffrey Wolfe adds.

While the Moosejaw Madness online community is the focus of its customer loyalty efforts, the unconventional company has implemented or is implementing other strategies and tools to bolster loyalty. These include a customer rewards program (MoosejawRewards.com) and a sharp focus on the lowest prices and price-matching. It also is pioneering marketing tactics and technologies including podcasting and mobile phone-based e-commerce and text messaging.

“It’s our goal to be first to market in our industry with new ideas,” Robert Wolfe says. “Anything we can do we go after. Some things take a week, others take a year.”

One ringy-dingy

Charging far ahead of the pack, Moosejaw three years ago began using opt-in text messaging via mobile phones as a marketing technique. In 2003 it started by transmitting abridged versions of the madness section’s daily remark. However, the limitations of the technology overcame the aims of the company.

“We went with it because so many Moosejaw staff members, who also are customers and know the product better than anyone, were text messaging all day long, and because the phone companies were heavily advertising the technology. Ultimately, if our customer is doing it, we need to do it,” Robert Wolfe says. “So we tried it, but at the time it was very expensive; also, it limited messages to only 30 characters, which made it difficult to create meaningful text.”

Today, though, the cost of text messaging has decreased while the number of characters per message has increased. As a result, last month the company resurrected its text messaging program. It now sends occasional messages of up to 500 characters.

“It’s a convenient form of communication-not just one-way, but two-way,” Jeffrey Wolfe says. “We send out our daily remark or a daily sale item. And on an individual basis, we convey customer service information like order status. On the other side, it’s practical and fun for customers to use. They send us service-oriented questions as well as participate in the madness section, doing things like answering the daily trivia question.”

Just prior to the resurrection of its text messaging tool, Moosejaw Mountaineering began using another technology uncommon in Internet retailing: podcasting. The company considers regular podcasts, which launched in April, to be another tool to create tighter bonds with customers.

High school and college students love podcasts; the combination of the company’s leading demographic with one of that age group’s favorite new technologies will prove valuable, Robert Wolfe calculates. “Every kid working at Moosejaw listens to podcasts. At first I couldn’t understand why anyone would listen to these little broadcasts. So we did a survey online and customers overwhelmingly said they wanted a podcast.”

The Neil Diamond factor

As the old chestnut goes, the customer is always right. Moosejaw now offers 60-second podcast versions of its madness section’s daily remark, though sometimes the remark is usurped by a Moosejaw employee singing songs by Neil Diamond or Bread. It also produces “Grandma’s Podcast,” a daily show hosted by company grandmother “Grandy.” The podcast also features guest hosts-customers’ grandmothers. In addition to listening to Grandma’s Podcast on the Moosejaw site, shoppers can have it automatically downloaded via Apple’s iTunes.

With podcasting and text messaging up and running, Moosejaw is looking to blaze other trails. Next up: E-commerce via mobile devices. The retailer is working with mPoria Inc., a mobile technology vendor, to create a version of Moosejaw.com that’s easily accessible via mobile phones and PDAs, enabling retailing on handheld devices. No launch date has been set.

Some industry analysts believe this technology will be key to e-commerce. In the future, online shopping will become more interactive between retailers and customers, says Mandy Putnam, vice president at Retail Forward Inc., a research and consulting firm specializing in retailing and consumer products marketing. “New technologies such as smart phones will further drive the convergence of shopping across venues,” she says.

And it will further customer loyalty, Moosejaw predicts. As with everything else it does, the company plans to inject its own brand of madness into mobility.

“Fun is our business-it’s one and the same for us,” Jeffrey Wolfe says. “And for us it leads to sales at the end of the day. But of course, you have to be growing as a business to have fun in the first place.”

bill@verticalwebmedia.com

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