October 8, 2010, 4:40 PM

CSN Stores’ ad platform generates sales for offline furniture retailers

The e-retailer says it’s a way to make money from consumers who don’t buy online.

Lead Photo

CSN Stores last August launched the paid ad platform.

CSN Stores LLC last August launched a paid ad platform that enables bricks-and-mortar furniture retailers to buy ads on CSN sites that also sell furniture.  More than a year later, the company says the program delivers to consumers visiting the CSN site the most relevant, localized information. CSN says the ads do not cannibalize its web sales, even though one study of the program suggests the program boosts the number of visitors to competing retailers’ sites.

“We have a great business selling to a small percentage of the millions of folks who visit our sites every month. Those who will buy online will buy online whether or not they see an ad from a local retailer, and some will always buy offline no matter what,” says John Mulliken, vice president of media and strategic initiatives at CSN Stores.

The Get It Near Me ad platform, which Mulliken says was built and is managed entirely in-house, launched in August 2009 but the company has been actively pursuing sales only for the last five months. The program is open only to retailers with a bricks-and-mortar presence, but retailers that have an e-retailing arm in addition to a retail storefront also are allowed.

Retailers can choose to pay on a pay-per-click basis when CSN visitors link to a retailer’s website. Retailers without a web presence or a less-developed web presence can choose to pay on a cost-per-lead basis that CSN generates based on information the consumers give to CSN indicating they want more information about the local retailer. Mulliken says most advertisers choose the pay-per-click program.

Advertisers can target ads based on multiple categories, including geography, product category, price point and brand. CSN Stores starts the targeting process when it reads consumers’ locations through their IP address. Ads appear at multiple site levels, including category and product pages. When a relevant Get It Near Me ad doesn’t correlate with a site visitor’s search, the visitor sees a “sponsored links” ad box. Ads appear in pages’ left-most column.

At this stage in the program’s development, most of the more than 100 participating retailers are paying a base price for the ads, but Mulliken says the plan is for retailers to bid for specific placements similar to the way Google sells keywords.

Early Get It Near Me advertisers say they get positive return on investment with their ads. “With this program, we get right in front of these consumers when they’re shopping for the kinds of furniture that I see. I couldn’t afford that kind of exposure with most other kinds of media,” says Daniel Waldron, marketing manager for Dream Home Interiors.

Tests run by interactive agency Nurun, which represents a Get It Near Me advertiser, found that visitors referred through the ad program were 78.8% more engaged with the advertiser’s site and also had a 41% greater click-through rate than visitors referred though other content networks. 

Mulliken says the Get It Near Me ad platform applies only to CSN Stores’ furniture web properties, such as CSNSofas.com and BedroomFurniture.com, although the company is looking to expand it to other CSN Store-operated web properties, including those in lighting and plumbing categories. CSN Stores is No. 61 in Internet Retailer’s Top 500 Guide and operates more than 200 niche web sites. It had an estimated $270 million in sales in 2009.

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