July 31, 2007, 12:00 AM

IRCE 2007: Report from the Conference

(Page 5 of 6)

Offline campaigns can drive customers who don`t use a campaign-specific URL to VistaPrint`s site, diverting revenue to other acquisition channels and making it difficult to fully track a print campaign`s success, Gallagher notes. With direct mail, about 24% of direct mail responders use the advertised URL, she said.

Direct mail tracking allows VistaPrint to compare the names and addresses of listed prospects to newly acquired customers regardless of how they came in, she said.

New opportunities with search
Benefiting from the New Competition Between Search Engines
Charlene Li, analyst Forrester Research
Nathan Decker, director of e-commerce, Evogear.com

"The reality is that people use multiple search engines," Charlene Li said. "People do searches on social computing sites. Are you, the retailer, there too?" Li also noted alternative venues for searching out products include such options as local search, YouTube and Facebook.

Spending 40% to 50% of the online budget on search represents a good ratio, Li said. Retailers also need to rationalize spending on paid vs. natural search, she said. She also recommended retailers consider contextual and behaviorally-targeted ads in search. "You reach people with different messages at different points," she said.

Evogear.com`s search strategy has evolved, Nathan Decker said. In its early years, the focus was on producing traffic more than keyword relevancy. Now, search terms have grown more expensive and there is more competition for them. That`s shifted Evogear`s search strategy to greater scrutiny of keyword selection and ROI. Today, Evogear`s search strategy extends beyond Google to include paid search on Yahoo and MSN.

Efficient management of keywords
Getting Better Mileage from the Search Engines
Bill Tancer, general manager of global research, Hitwise
Gary Ervin, vice president of customer acquisition, Shopzilla

Search engines are the cornerstone of online marketing, said Gary Ervin, vice president of customer acquisition at comparison shopping site Shopzilla.com. But time and resources dictate what an e-retailer can do in search engine marketing, and so merchants must focus their efforts to make search marketing profitable and meaningful, he added.

Generally, more keywords are better, but only if they are relevant, Ervin said. A greater number of keywords consumes more time; a merchant who chooses this route must learn to manage keywords in an efficient manner, Ervin advised. To do so, he said, e-retailers must mind the objectives they set for a search engine marketing campaign, keeping return on investment, conversion rates and brand building top of mind.

Overall, e-retailers must clearly define their objectives and budget, focus on keywords that best describe products, develop messaging and landing pages that easily connect shoppers to products, and use web analytics tools, he concluded.

Narrowing site search results
Site Search: Zero Results Ring Up Zero Sales
Susan Aldrich, senior vice president, The Patricia Seybold Group
Rex Creekmur, director of marketing, Rugs Direct

E-retailer Rugs Direct conducted research about site operations and the results were conclusive: Users could not find what they were looking for. It`s one thing to offer 60,000 choices, but when faced with too many choices many shoppers opt to make none.

To rectify the problem, Rugs Direct sought outside help, selecting Endeca Technologies Inc.`s InFront system. The e-retailer assigned two I.T. staffers to the project who spent several months linking new site search functions with the Rugs Direct product database, explained Rex Creekmur, director of marketing at Rugs Direct. The new site search system enables shoppers to easily and significantly narrow searches by selecting via options on the search results page color, shape, size, price range, material or any combination of parameters.

For site search success, added Susan Aldrich, senior vice president at The Patricia Seybold Group, e-retailers should test drive search in real world scenarios and consider whether their sites are set up efficiently for site search.

Build It, Run It, Sell It:
What New Merchants
Need to Know, Part 2
June 6, 2007: Track F

Work of art
Timely, Fast and Cheap: The Qualities of Good Delivery and Fulfillment
Curt Barry, president, F. Curtis Barry & Co.
Peter Hantman, general manager, distribution and fulfillment operations, Metropolitan Museum of Art

Improved systems integration is helping The Metropolitan Museum of Art expedite order management. An antiquated order management system often resulted in poor service for the museum`s web shoppers, Peter Hantman said. "After the Friday downloads, no pick tickets were issued until the following Tuesday," he said. Outdated systems also resulted in the museum processing less than 80% of orders on the same day.

To achieve better results, the museum purchased new technology from Manhattan Associates Inc. and CommercialWare Inc. and renegotiated shipping rates. Today the fulfillment department`s same-day order processing rate is well above 80% and annual shipping costs have been reduced by more than 20%. "We eliminated a lot of manual counting," Hantman said.

New technology is important, but constant training and realistic employee performance objectives will also expedite fulfillment, Curt Barry said. "Direct labor is more than 50% of the total cost," Barry advised attendees. "Hire experienced managers and keep on training them."

The customer is right
How a Small Retailer Handles Customer Service
Timothy Jackson, president, PlumberSurplus.com

PlumberSurplus.com takes complaints and unusual requests in stride--like the elderly customer who e-mailed to ask if PlumberSurplus.com sells a seat belt that could be installed on a specific type of toilet seat. When dealing with customer service, small retailers need to take both the good and bad in stride, Timothy Jackson told attendees.

Smaller web merchants also need to grow their customer service department as the company evolves and to be open to quickly implementing new ideas. "Wait for perfection and you will never go live," Jackson said. To build up its customer service department, PlumberSurplus.com hires employees with advanced communication skills that can be utilized as the business grows.

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