PC Flowers Debuts Web's Biggest Sweeps

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PC Flowers & Gifts launched the largest-ever sweepstakes on the Internet last week as a vehicle to increase traffic, build its database of e-mail addresses and encourage seasonal purchases.

The sweepstakes, designed by PC Flowers & Gifts, Stamford, CT, and run by its equity partner Fingerhut, Minnetonka, MN, will be conducted at its Web site (www.pcflowers.com) and the sites of its 1,200 marketing partners. Data is collected and maintained by partners on their co-branded sites. The sweepstakes was unveiled to coincide with a Valentine's Day his-and-her car giveaway worth $50,000 and daily instant-win prizes of chocolates and bouquets worth $125. A new set of promotions is slated for each month and a $5 million grand prize will be awarded in March 2000.

Giveaways of $50,000 and $100,000 are being tested to determine which amount is most effective in driving response and will be used as the sweepstakes continues. In total, the sweepstakes will give away more than $5.3 million in prizes.

Online prize and savings club Webstakes, by comparison, has given away 4,000 prizes worth $750,000 in 2 1/2 years, according to Unity Stokes, director of marketing at Webstakes. Other online sweepstakes purveyors agreed that the PC Flowers promotion was the largest yet on the Internet.

Consumers can register for the sweepstakes by making a purchase or registering their names and e-mail addresses at any of the participating sites. Registrants who provide their names and e-mail addresses and those of a recipient through Feb. 11 can send a free virtual Valentine's Day bouquet and greeting card and will receive an electronic coupon for 10 percent off any floral product. Similar dual e-mail collection offers are planned for other holidays. By opting in, registrants will receive monthly e-mail updates about new sweepstakes promotions and gift specials.

"We want to give partners all the ammunition they need to bring traffic in," said William Tobin, PC Flowers' CEO.

Those partners include CBS, NBC, Merrill Lynch, Citibank, USA Today and BellSouth. PC Flowers is the selected provider of flowers and gifts on these sites and co-brands all purchases in the partner's name.

Lee Halladay, senior manager for business development at BellSouth, Atlanta, said the sweepstakes increases traffic to its Internet service home page (www.bellsouth.net), which helps build the brand and generate additional revenue by increasing flower and gift purchases. The latest sweepstakes promotions will be included in a monthly e-mail newsletter to its 378,000 customers.

Names and e-mail addresses of visitors will be used for future sweepstakes marketing and could be solicited for ISP service in the future, Halladay said.

Stokes, who has worked with PC Flowers in the past, said promotions are a booming trend in the way Web sites create interest.

"The consumer won't give information or spend time on your site for nothing," he said. "E-commerce promotions establish trust because the consumers feels they are getting something back."

Tobin said the sweepstakes would not have been possible without the backing of Fingerhut, which owns a 40 percent stake in PC Flowers. The catalog giant has been conducting sweepstakes mailings for years to its huge database of customers and prospects, but this sweepstakes is its first Internet venture.

Fingerhut will process all of the orders and entries through its fulfillment group. It also selected a judging agency it used previously to handle the prize drawings and helped arrange approval for the sweepstakes from every state and many foreign countries. Links have been established to the sweepstakes from www.fingerhut.com and www.andysgarage.com sites.

Ron Neher, director of Internet promotion at Fingerhut, said its sweepstakes experts worked with PC Flowers to conceptualize ideas but left all the creative to its online partner.
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