Boys Flock to Sweet16's Party

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Sweet16.com was stunned when a recent live Webcast and chat it hosted for N'Sync drew just as many teenage boys as girls. As a result the site has changed its marketing focus and added more content for boys as it gears up for a hard launch in June.


"We were shocked, plain and simple," said Shelly Palmer, CEO of Sweet16.com, New York. "The boy to girl ratio was without a doubt the most important lesson we learned from this experience. We have changed our marketing plan entirely because of this one event."


When Jive Records tapped Sweet16.com to host the live Webcast launch of N'sync's new CD, the site felt it fit perfectly with their 12-17 female target audience. So perfect in fact, that it quickly scrambled to soft-launch the "girls-only" site on March 20, nearly a month earlier then anticipated. Though it had their target market wrong, Palmer said he was thankful to find out before the site officially launches.


"I guess where 16 year old girls are, 16 year old boys will follow," said Palmer. "Our research indicated that the name would scare boys away and obviously we were wrong. Sweet16.com does not scare boys away. We were blown away by that."


The original motto for the site, "A Fresh Online Experience for Girls," has now been changed to "Everything Sweet16, All In One Place." Palmer said that before the event the company felt that no more than 25 percent of visitors would be boys.


The Webcast consisted of two main parts using both streaming and rich media. There was a live rich media enhanced chat, produced with with Communities.com, that allowed kids to communicate through a video game, and the live streaming Webcast.


The chat split kids into a virtual arena where upwards of 100 were chatting at once and smaller rooms consisting of no more than 20 or so chatters.


For nearly a month the event sign up served as the only page on the site. Currently the site is only four pages but, because of the event, is drawing upward of 30,000 unique visitors a day. The numbers are impressive considering the company spend less than $40,000 to market the event on radio and the Net.


Another important lesson the company learned may have cost them money. Palmer said Sweet16.com did not market the e-commerce aspects of the site - a page with the top 16 N'Sync fan items - because only 26 percent of 12- to 17-year-old girls have access to credit cards.


Sweet16.com will not release the amount of revenue generated, but Palmer labels it "an extraordinary amount of business." Because the online shop did so well, Palmer says the site will now have an e-commerce focus.


"People may say we were stupid to not bank on e-commerce," said Palmer. "But when the numbers tell you only a fraction of girls have access to a credit card, it just doesn't jump out at you to push that down their throats. Now we have learned differently about our target market and their spending habits and will change the site accordingly. It's all part of the learning process."
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