December 7, 2005, 12:00 AM

DVD Empire turns up the volume on customer service

With annual sales of about $30 million, DVD Empire is adding better search and enhancing its RSS and customer service programs to attract more shoppers of DVDs, CDs and games.

DVD Empire is introducing several measures to improve both site search and customer service, which in turn will help the online retailer of DVDs, games and CDs grow its 2005 web sales to about $30 million.

DVD Empire, No. 173 in the Internet Retailer Top 400 Guide to Retail Web Sites, has been selling online since 1998 and sees collectors of movies, online games, CDs and TV shows as its prime customers. “Many sites just sell new releases, but our niche is selling to the collectors who want to shop online for an entire series of movies or TV shows,” says Alicia Berry, director of operations for DVD Empire.

The web retailer, a business unit of Right Ascension Inc., recently updated its internally developed and maintained site search program with new advance search capability that enables customers to shop by key words, price, entertainment category and best seller.

DVD Empire also recently introduced a customer service program that compensates online shoppers who e-mail or call the company with web site recommendations and improvements. If the suggestion is implemented, DVD will give the customer a credit of $3 to more than $50 to be redeemed on a future purchase. “If they spot a misspelling, we will give them a credit,” Berry says. “The credits get bigger when customers call or e-mail us with suggestions that we can implement and that will improve performance.”

DVD Empire does its own web development and technology upgrades and likes to add value-added services. For instance, DVD Empire began building a really simple syndication program two years ago that today is used to send content and marketing promotions to about 2,000 customers, Berry says.

RSS is an alternative to e-mail that enables retailers to use a family of XML file formats to syndicate content to customers over the Internet. DVD Empire developed an RSS feed that customers can receive on any RSS player-equipped computer. About 2,000 customers have subscribed to the feed and receive daily updates, including new release dates and, starting next year, redeemable coupons.

With conventional e-mail, DVD Empire sometimes has to go through multiple spam blockers to send a message to an opt-in address, but RSS lets the company communicate with customers more quickly and easily. “They launch the RSS player and can link directly to us,” Berry says. Recently DVD Empire has expanded its RSS program to include more detailed content.

With better site search and customer communication tools, DVD Empire is doing a better job with overall customer service, Berry says. “We average about a 2% rate in returned merchandise each year compared to the national average of 7% to 12%,” Berry says.


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