Retailers Search for New Customers at SES

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NEW YORK -- How to find new customers was top of mind for retailers at yesterday's all question-and-answer retailer forum at the Search Engine Strategies Conference and Expo.

New names are "first and foremost" what home shopping channel QVC looks for when it runs a search campaign, said Carol Steinberg, director of marketing and business development. The Internet provides "an opportunity to be in front of a lot of people."

QVC never offers coupons or money off, but it will offer payment plans. Steinberg said the best way it has found to acquire customers is to use search words and phrases such as "the name you can trust," "money back guarantee," "official reseller" and others that build trust with consumers and make them want to buy beauty products, for example, from QVC instead of from its major competitor.

In contrast, the Metropolitan Museum of Art is a much smaller retailer and can't compete with QVC for search terms such as "silver ring," for example, e-commerce manager Janice Yablonski said. What works for attracting customers to the museum's Web site is to focus on branding terms most of the year and more specific terms during major gifting seasons. For a while, Yablonski said, she made the mistake of trying highly specialized terms.

"Branding is extremely useful," she said, adding that even existing customers need to be reminded of the museum's URL on occasion.

Diversification was another issue raised.

"We're looking for ways to not be so dependent on Google for revenue," said Allan Dick, the forum's moderator. Dick, who is general manager of Vintage Tub & Bath, added that this is one reason to develop a blog, which can result in a higher search ranking on some other engines like MSN.

A few speakers expressed excitement about the movement by a group of online retailers, search engines and online agencies to create a common standard for communicating product descriptions and advertising costs, which could improve the quality of searches. Industry consultant Alan Rimm-Kaufman is spearheading the project, which has the support of Google, Yahoo, the National Retail Federation and others. Many of those involved met Tuesday in Menlo Park, CA, and the standardization project "is moving ahead," Rimm-Kaufman said.

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