January 11, 2008, 12:00 AM

How Auto Barn put the brakes on unprofitable online marketing spend

The auto parts retailer gets a clearer picture of what products sell through shopping portals and comparison sites using Product Feed Manager from SmartFeed. By deleting unprofitable items from product feeds Auto Barn expects to save $25,000 a year.

Auto parts retailer Auto Barn was getting a lot of clicks from comparison shopping engines Shopzilla.com and Shopping.com on certain products, but found those clicks produced few sales. By using Product Feed Manager from SmartFeed Inc., Auto Barn can easily see which products are costing it more in click fees than it’s getting in sales and eliminate those products from the feeds it sends to shopping portals and comparison sites, says David Blumberg, owner and president of the retailer that sells online and through 15 New York-area stores.

Global Positioning System devices are an example of a product that was proving unprofitable. “It’s an unbelievably popular category and everybody is selling the product,” Blumberg says. “The margins are razor thin and we were getting hundreds and hundreds of clicks on GPS units, and the conversion ratio was very low, so we were wasting money on those unperforming clicks.” He says he typically pays 10 to 25 cents to shopping portals for each click.

With Product Feed Manager, which Auto Barn started using in August, Blumberg gets a dashboard that shows him every item that’s being offered on the portals, the number of clicks on each product, how often it’s added to the shopping cart and how many sales are completed. That’s allowed him to eliminate from his product fees to the portals not only items like GPS units but entire categories, such as tools, where the profit margins are so low that the click fees ate up any profits made from the sales those clicks produced.

Overall, Blumberg estimates he will save $25,000 a year of his annual budget of $150,000 for marketing through the portals and shopping engines. SmartFeed charges $49.95 per month for feeds to up to eight portals and comparison sites, regardless of the number of products included in the feed, and $10 per month for each additional feed.

Auto Barn is using Product Feed Manager to supply data to six sites and plans to add a seventh soon. Blumberg says it’s easier for him to work with additional sites now that he only has to interface to the SmartFeed system, and not tailor each feed to the requirements of a particular site.

SmartFeed, which went live in July, now has 40 online retailer clients, says Richard Friedman, president of the New York-based company. Privately held Auto Barn does not report is online sales, but gets 411,000 unique visitors to its site each month, Blumberg says.

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