Creative selling helps sustain sales.

Internet Retailer

Online retailers that sell flowers, gifts and jewelry products have the ability to make a big splash in offering a unique set of products and knowing how to market them well online. Take Bourbon & Boots Inc., which ranks No. 994 in Internet Retailer's 2013 Second 500 Guide and is one of the selections for this year's Hot 100. The e-commerce site sells Southern-themed goods, most are handmade, and markets the heck out of them on social media. The e-retailer last year in fact got 15% of its traffic from shoppers who saw a Bourbon & Boots product "pinned" on Pinterest and clicked to learn more.

KitsyLane.com, another Hot 100 selection, meanwhile brings the Tupperware direct sales approach to the web. Boutique owners—or sales reps—pick among Kitsy Lane's jewelry and accessories and merchandise them in their online storefront on KitsyLane.com. Then they spread the word among their friends on social media. Social connections place orders through a friend's storefront and the friend gets a commission for the sale. The model eliminates the home-based Tupperware party but the social element extends sales reps' reach to wherever they may have friends across the country. The e-retailer say 40% of boutique owners have registered a sale in the last four months.

A complete site redesign that took the better part of a year to complete helped land MonthlyClubs.com, an "of the month" retailer of gift subscriptions for products like wine, chocolate, flowers and cheese, on the Hot 100. Founder Kris Calef says he invested heavily in product photography and content to convey the appetizing nature of the gift selections, and it is paying off. All key performance indicators—time on site, conversions, page views, and more—increased significantly after the redesign, which debuted in October 2012. Calef says the redesign took a massive amount of work, and content creation each month continues to be a challenge, but in the end the measureable improvements show that hard work and good design pay off.

It is creative marketing and sales tactics such as these that may help sustain online sales growth in the flowers, gifts and jewelry categories, which in 2012 was well below e-retail industry sales growth of 16% as estimated by the U.S. Department of Commerce. Sales for the 12 retailers ranked in the 2013 Top 500 Guide's flowers/gifts category totaled almost $1.43 billion in 2012, but that was up only 8.19% from about $1.32 billion in 2011. The 27 flowers/gifts e-retailers in the Second 500 Guide contributed another $198 million in sales in 2012, but they too fell short of the industry benchmark at just 13% year-over-year growth. In jewelry, a category that the Top 500 and Second 500 Guides track separately from flowers and gifts, Top 500 Guide-ranked retailers grew their sales 11.66% to about $1.49 billion in 2012.

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