Shari's Berries Tastes Success With E-Mail-Database Effort

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Gourmet food merchant Shari's Berries International Inc. is savoring sweet results from e-mail marketing campaigns targeting customers and prospects in its e-mail database.


Shari's Berries, Roseville, CA, known for its chocolate-dipped strawberries, has five stores in California, a catalog mailed three times yearly to customers and prospects, plus a Web site, berries.com, that launched in November 1998.


Shari's Berries' e-mail data are organized into three databases: a consumer database containing 67,000 e-mail addresses; a corporate database including 2,500; and an affiliate database with 27,000.


E-mail addresses are collected several ways. Customers placing orders are asked whether they wish to be added to the company's e-mail list. One also can be added to the list, without purchasing, through the Web site. When people call to place an order, a customer service representative asks whether they wish to receive the company's e-mail messages.


Also, "when someone receives a gift, there is always a card included that contains the standard 'what did you think of the product' questionnaire, with a space on the card where people are asked if they'd like to be on the e-mail list," said Karen Garcia, Web marketing manager of Berries.com.


Prospects who get the company's catalog sometimes call, asking to receive only e-mails. E-mail addresses also are collected at corporate trade shows.


Every two months an e-mail cleanup occurs "where we double-check deliverability issues," Garcia said.


Shari's Berries sends three to six e-mail campaigns monthly using Lyris ListManager, software from Lyris Technologies Inc., Berkeley, CA.


"In August, for example, which doesn't have any holidays, we'll send out two or three e-mails, whereas for Valentine's Day [the company's biggest holiday] we may send out six," Garcia said. "The consumer campaigns are usually pitching a product of some sort, such as our newest product."


E-mails to prospects usually offer general information on the company and its products. E-mails to corporate customers include reminders about ordering items or updates to their accounts.


Shari's Berries also does promotions targeting specific corporate customers, such as mortgage brokers, mortgage lenders and real estate agents. These customers send Shari's Berries products to "their best customers or vendors," Garcia said. "It's a great vendor gift. No one ever forgets it."


These gifts often are emblazoned with the logo of the company sending it, she said.


The company can execute these campaigns because it can pull any demographic information it requires from its e-mail databases. It can pull by type of industry, by people who ordered in the past three months or those who ordered a specific product.


Response rates for general e-mail campaigns run from 0.6 percent to 2 percent. The click-to-order ratio, measuring how likely a customer is to buy from the Web site once he clicks through on an e-mail, "is astronomical. It's never been below 10 percent," Garcia said.


Tracking the campaigns is important to Shari's Berries' e-mail marketing.


"We typically start checking for results immediately after sending out an e-mail," she said. "Within five minutes, we'll usually have 10 to 15 orders."


Garcia plans to use Lyris ListManager to create more personalized content for e-mail campaigns. Possibilities include a birthday-reminder service and messages tailored to a customer's gender and specific gift preferences, she said.


"Men don't want to be told about holidays as often as women do," she said, "but they really appreciate the last-minute reminders to buy gifts for their wives and girlfriends."


Location is another way the company wants to pursue more customized offers, Garcia said.


"Because our products are perishable, it will be nice to parse things out for one coast or another so that we can send special deals to the places where we have a little more leeway to ship," she said.


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