March 17, 2010, 12:00 AM posts an 8% increase in 2009 sales boosted sales by 8% to $18.9 million in 2009. The company credits improved site search and navigation, and new features such as an Answer Box where shoppers can ask and answer questions.

Bead and jewelry supplies retailer was launched in the garage of CEO and strategist Devin Kimura. Ten years later it has posted $18.9 million in sales for 2009, up 8% from $17.5 million in 2008. The company credits the boost in sales to improving and adding customer-friendly features to the site.

“Our strategy to drive sales in 2009 centered around our customers. We updated the design to put more focus on content for inspiring jewelry designers and made it easier to navigate and search,” says Steve Groenier, vice president, search marketing and customer service. “We added a user registration to make the shopping experience more friendly for return customers.”

Other new features include an Answer Box that allows customers to pose and answer questions. For example, one customer recently asked about the difference between gold filled and gold plated. In the Answer Box, customers can sort questions and answers several ways, such as by most responses or most recent questions.

In 2009, while Artbeads, No. 376 in the Internet Retailer Top 500 Guide, cut advertising on low-performing search and comparison shopping campaigns, it invested more in grassroots marketing efforts such as e-mail marketing and social networks, Groenier says.

“Our goal was to connect with customers on a more personal level. This involved building relationships with influential bloggers in our niche, growing our social media presence, and launching viral marketing initiatives, including contests, sweepstakes and YouTube videos,” says Groenier. “We also focused on creating more value for our customers with frequent sales promotions, including more aggressive coupons and price discounts.”

In addition to holding sweepstakes such as one that gave away a $1,000 site shopping spree to increase its e-mail distribution lists, Artbeads used deeper coupon discount offers as incentives for customers to subscribe. The company also added an e-mail sign-up tab on its Facebook page, which currently boasts about 24,700 fans.

New initiatives in the coming year include adding personalization to its e-mail marketing and product recommendations on the site.

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