December 16, 2005, 12:00 AM

Burpee cultivates a new channel in RSS

One of retail’s oldest brands became one of the first to offer an RSS feed to its customers when launched a feed early last year. Revenue off traffic from the feed is up 200% since last spring.


One of retail’s oldest brands became one of the first to offer an RSS feed to its customers when W. Atlee Burpee & Co.’s launched a feed early last year, and as with the company’s regular e-mail, any product mentions are linked back to the site and the opportunity to buy. The channel is driving traffic and sales, according to director of e-commerce Ethan Holland. Source code reporting the origin of clicks to the site shows that click throughs from the RSS feed rose 200% from February to March 2005, and 400% from February through November.

“What’s interesting is that we’re in the off season then-no one is planting tomatoes in November,” says Holland. “But revenue off RSS is up 200% from the spring. They’re buying our hard goods and bulbs.”

In a business where the buying peak is highly seasonal, Burpee looked past the buying-alert strategy used by some retailers to populate a daily RSS feed to leverage the content legacy of its 130-year history, including thousand of photos sent in by proud home gardeners. The feed, which requires about an hour of IT time a day to load into a preformatted template, includes Burpee’s weekly e-mail to customers repurposed for syndication and other graphic content including customer pictures.

“One of the hardest things about an RSS feed is that you have to be able to provide a steady stream of content to keep it fresh. You can’t just post once a month,” says Holland.

Forester Research analyst Charlene Li cites the branding utility of Burpee’s RSS feed. “If you think about it, most people go to Burpee once a year in the early spring to plan what seeds they want and maybe even order directly,” says Li. “With the feed, the relationship has gone form a once-yearly event to a daily branded experience.”


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