January 21, 2009, 12:00 AM

Fingerhut gets its hands on a 2.9% hike in Q4 web sales

For the fourth quarter, Fingerhut grew web sales to $67.8 million from $65.9 million in Q4 of 2007. But shoppers also compressed the normal five week holiday shopping cycle down to only 14 days.

Keeping a close eye on consumer behavior and knowing just the right time to offer a holiday discount helped Fingerhut Direct Marketing Inc. increase fourth quarter web sales by about 2.9%, vice president of e-commerce and digital marketing Mark Redetzke tells Internet Retailer.

For the fourth quarter, web sales grew year over year to about $67.8 million from $65.9 million in Q4 of 2007, Redetzke says. But web shoppers at Fingerhut.com, No. 96 in the Internet Retailer Top 500 Guide, also waited until just before Christmas to make a final purchase. “The normal five or six week holiday shopping season this year was compacted down to about two weeks,” says Redetzke.

Fingerhut, which grew web sales 14.6% to $165 million in 2008 from $144 million in 2007, watched consumer behavior closely in order to judge the best time to offer discounts. “Instead of just offering an across the board discount of 50% over the holidays and into the clearance season we did a better job of timing,” says Redetzke. “When we did offer discounts, we mixed and matched to create a sense of urgency that attracted buyers.”

A redesigned web site with an updated site search engine and guided navigation also helped to spur fourth quarter sales. “The conversion rate for customers who used the site search box to find and purchase a specific item was about double for those that didn’t,” says Redetzke.

Fingerhut, which expects the web to account for about 33% of all sales in 2008, also used its consumer finance arm to track Internet shoppers closely in the fourth quarter. “We have more of a captive audience than other retailers because we finance many of their purchases,” says Redetzke. “Consumer behavior changed around mid-November, but we used a variety of tools to monitor what was going on and then created the right mix of sales incentives.”

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