January 14, 2009, 12:00 AM

FirstStreet stays on a path to improve its top-line numbers

Although e-commerce sales declined in 2008, FirstStreet is finding new ways to reach customers through digital marketing and web site features.

After FirstStreet experienced a strong first nine months in 2008 with 10% online sales growth compared to the previous year, the direct marketer of housewares and gadgets for baby boomers started to see sales dip.

“We experienced the same woes as other online retailers, a softening of demand in products such as ours which is considered luxury,” says Hunter Mefford, director of Internet marketing. “Fortunately, we have a strong handle on performance metrics and adapt very quickly.”

FirstStreet started by looking at ways to improve profitability. Mefford says that one way was to use Google’s Conversion Optimizer, a free bid management feature, which led to improved return on investment in search engine marketing and reduced the company’s cost per conversion for paid search on Google by about 30%. The Google tool is designed to help retailers set a maximum cost-per-acquisition and uses historical data and algorithms to generate optimal cost-per-click bids.

FirstStreet has also been focusing on targeted e-mail campaigns. In June, the company switched to Yesmail’s self-service program that enabled FirstStreet to better segment and identify its shoppers for e-mail campaigns. “It’s allowed us to do targeted work and has an easy user interface. It also allows us to do advance segmentation,” Mefford says.

In addition, FirstStreet has also received positive results using site recommendation features through MyBuys Inc., Mefford says. The conversion rate for recommended products on the site is 7% compared to an overall 2% conversion.

Other features planned for the site include a better site search engine that will filter searches by price, popularity, wish lists and customer reviews.

FirstStreet, No. 404 in the Internet Retailer Top 500 Guide, had web sales of $11.7 million in 2008, a 9% decline from 2007 online sales.

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