E-Marketers Pull Out All the Stops for Holidays

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EBay Inc. leads a slew of online brands with promotions vying for the attention of holiday shoppers.

The auction site's Secret Santa Gift Exchange, at www.ebay.com/secretsanta, lets visitors create online gift exchange groups of friends or family. This is eBay's latest attempt to attract some of the $16.8 billion that Jupiter Research predicts shoppers will spend online this holiday.

"It's very important for us to bring people together in a new, unique way of gift giving for the season," said Julie Haddon, director of consumer promotions at eBay, San Jose, CA. "Hopefully it'll give an incentive to use eBay and try it."

Group members submit their e-mail addresses to eBay and create holiday wish lists. EBay automatically e-mails each group member with the name and wish list of the person for whom the individual is buying. Members then shop on eBay.

Members shopping for men can look for eBay gift certificates, NFL tickets, Omega watches, Craftsman tools, Ralph Lauren shirts and Nikon Coolpix digital cameras.

Women also have wide shopping options: Victoria's Secret, Mary Kay cosmetics, Kate Spade handbags, KitchenAid mixers, cashmere scarves, Estee Lauder's Beyond Paradise fragrance, aromatherapy candles and diamond studs.

Members also can buy the eBay-branded holiday ornament, snow globe and holiday pin. They can donate to charities like Marine Corps' Toys for Tots, America's Second Harvest and UNICEF.

EBay will support the promotion with marketing across media. An on-air promo on Infinity Radio stations, mostly at morning drive time, offers a chance to win a Secret Santa office party. The call-in promo started Nov. 13 for a run into January.

Online, eBay Secret Santa promotions will appear through Dec. 12 on party invitation site evite.com's confirmation page. That is in addition to a chance to win a $25 eBay gift certificate for starting or joining a Secret Santa group. EBay will give 100 such certificates to participants daily through Dec. 18, the last day for starting a Secret Santa Exchange group.

Offline, eBay posters will grace 7,500 post offices nationwide in a deal with the U.S. Postal Service. The posters direct people to participate in the gift exchange program.

Finally, street teams dressed in Santa costumes will sing carols and distribute fliers in Boston, Chicago, Dallas, San Francisco and New York. The teams will focus on highly trafficked city centers to encourage sign-ups for the holiday promotion.

LiveWorld Inc., Los Gatos, CA, powers eBay's online community group. Zipatoni, St. Louis, is responsible for promotions.

These marketing partners and eBay are curious to see public response to the Secret Santa Gift Exchange online.

"It's similar to the Fantasy Football Leagues moving online," said Hani Durzy, senior public relations manager at eBay.

Meanwhile, comparison-shopping services are not far behind in holiday marketing. PriceGrabber, Los Angeles, introduced a PriceGrabber Visa Gift Card. The prepaid debit card, available at www.pricegrabber.com, lets shoppers buy from listed merchants accepting Visa debit cards.

Valued from $25 to $250, the PriceGrabber card carries no upfront costs or shipping fees.

The card follows a National Retail Federation survey indicating the popularity of such cards. The NRF 2003 Holiday Consumer Intentions and Actions Survey said 48.4 percent of consumers wished for gift cards this holiday season, up from 41.3 percent last year.

And like eBay, PriceGrabber knows that philanthropy sells. The company has partnered First Book and Marine Corps Toys for Tots for its Give While You Gift program. Shoppers can donate items via the site.

Shopping.com, San Francisco, a comparison-shopping service born from the merger of DealTime.com and Epinions, is using television advertising to inspire shoppers to buy from its site.

The company broke a campaign Nov. 17 from San Francisco agency Publicis & Hal Riney Advertising to educate consumers on the virtues of online shopping. The 30-second spot airing in New York, San Francisco and Portland, OR, is also a test to gauge the use of offline media to drive consumer behavior online.

Running during local morning and evening broadcasts, news and cable channels at primetime, the humorous spot shows a consumer learning too late that the Web offered a better deal on a product bought in a store. It then shows how to use Shopping.com. The spot airs through the holidays.

Microsoft Corp.'s MSN Shopping is wooing consumers with an offline and online all-time favorite: deep discounts.

In a pre-Thanksgiving push, the Redmond, WA, portal ran deals Nov. 6-12 offering up to 80 percent discounts on 150 items. Participating retailers included Eddie Bauer, Kmart, drugstore.com, Horchow, Cooking.com, proflowers.com, Barnes & Noble.com, JCPenney and Dell.

MSN claims bargains persuade shoppers.

"The hardest thing about holiday shopping is getting started," MSN product manager Christine Andrews said in a statement.


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