August 28, 2009, 12:00 AM

Rookie web marketing tactic shows potential, sports apparel retailer says

He only inserted it into his online marketing lineup a few weeks ago, but the operator of CubWorld.com says he’s pleased with the hits—and sales—he’s seeing from reengaging consumers who have left his site with banner ads on other web sites.

Chicago Cubs fans know Sports World well, because they walk by the store and its bright blue and white banner whenever they enter Wrigley Field for a baseball game. But, because the many Cubs fans around the world may not know the retailer’s e-commerce site, CubWorld.com, the retailer is using a new tactic to provide a reminder to consumers who visit the site and then depart.

Those shoppers are presented banners advertising CubWorld.com as they move around some 90,000 web sites that are part of advertising networks that have partnered with online advertising company Veruta. Veruta announced in June it had integrated its retargeting system with Zoovy Inc., which built and hosts CubWorld.com, which does more than $2 million annually in online sales.

CubWorld.com initially was retargeting only consumers who had put an item into a shopping cart and then abandoned the sale-which represents 89% of unique sessions in which an item is put into a cart. Veruta would present a banner ad promoting the item the shopper had put in the cart. After trying that for a few weeks, CubWorld.com added targeting shoppers who had visited the site but not purchased, which represents 97% of unique visits, says Brad Rosen, owner of Sports World. The web site tracks visitors with cookies, which Veruta recognizes when the consumers go to web sites in its network.

Rosen has been encouraged by the results, which have been a bit surprising in that consumers who visited the site without adding an item to a shopping cart are reengaging with CubWorld.com at a higher rate-10.5%-than those who previously made it to the checkout page-2%. “Our current line of thinking is once people have entered the cart phase and subsequently abandoned they’ve made up their mind not to purchase,” says Brian Horakh, CEO at Zoovy. “Our conclusion is that it’s better to focus remarketing to people who never add an item to the cart and therefore have not decided not to purchase.”

Rosen says 80 shoppers have come back through the Veruta banner ads in the few weeks since the test began. “That’s 80 more people than I would have had if I didn’t have Veruta,” he says. He considers this a low-cost way to reengage consumers who had enough interest to visit his site. He pays “a couple of cents” each time someone clicks on a banner ad or hovers over it for at least two seconds. Horakh says the number of consumers clicking on the banner ads will increase as Veruta adds more online networks to the pilot.

Rosen notes the results likely would be better if the pilot had not coincided with a slump for the Cubs, who have not won a World Series championship since 1908. “A lot of my sales are based on how the Cubbies are doing,” he says. “If the Cubs would ever win, who knows what my sales would be? There are Cubs fans all over the world.”

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