April 13, 2004, 12:00 AM

If shoppers want it, they find it--no matter where it is in e-mail message

HancockFabrics.com tucked a mention of its new schedule of craft classes in stores at the bottom of an e-mail marketing message. The schedule got more clicks than a free shipping offer.


What’s the best place to place something a retailer wants to promote in an e-mail? Experience thus far says the medium is still in test phase. Take HancockFabrics.com’s new class schedule for customers who want to attend craft classes at Hancock Fabrics stores. After only a month in operation, the class schedule section is getting an average of 750 visitors a day who enter a ZIP code to learn about classes in their area, David Uptagrafft, manager of online services for Hancock Fabrics, tells InternetRetailer.com. “I’m really pleased with it, especially considering that we have not done any real promotion,” Uptagrafft says.

Among its promotions was a mention at the bottom of an e-mail promoting free shipping and specials. “It was hidden away at the bottom of the e-mail, just above the unsubscribe information,” he says, “in one of the places you’d think customers would be last likely to look.” In fact, the class schedule got a heavier click-through rate than the free shipping.

Nonetheless, customers found it and clicked on it. And now the feature is driving traffic to stores, Uptagrafft says. While Hancock Fabrics has not implemented a vehicle to measure how much traffic the class schedule is sending to stores, anecdotal evidence suggests it is significant, he says. For instance, there have been cases in which a class was mistakenly listed as free on the web site. Customers who showed up expecting a free class were one measure of the reach of the online schedule, Uptagrafft says.

All classes in stores that are scheduled from headquarters are listed on the site as well as 60% of classes that local stores schedule, Uptagrafft says. District managers are responsible for including local stores’ classes in the online class schedule. Visitors can view a calendar or print out a color-coded schedule.

In addition to sending traffic to the stores, Uptagrafft notes that the class schedule helps resolve some channel conflict issues in which stores think the web site is taking sales away from them. “This gives us something to go to the districts with and say, ‘Look at what the e-channel is doing for you,’” he says.


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