Ritzcamera.com Plans Personalized E-Mail Push

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Ritzcamera.com in mid-April will break its first personalized e-mail campaign for customer retention nearly two years after the nation's largest photographic products retail chain set up an online store.

The campaign will target 200,000 customers who shopped at www.ritzcamera.com last year and will recommend accessories to accompany previous purchases. Initial plans call for a one-shot e-mail drop.

"About 37 percent of our business during the holiday season was digital cameras, so depending on what brand of digital camera the consumer purchased, we will offer them certain accessory packages or accessory products at a special discounted price," said Andre Brysha, vice president and chief marketing officer at phobo.com Inc., Irvine, CA.

The Ritz Group, Beltsville, MD, spun off Phobo.com to handle the online retail operations of Ritz Camera Centers Inc. and sister company Boater's World. Like many traditional retailers, Ritz's challenge is to integrate its online systems with offline retail merchandising and fulfillment systems.

This e-mail campaign comes quick on the heels of deals struck by phobo.com to make ritzcamera.com the online imaging products store on the ShutterPort.com portal and A-Digital-Eye.com, a camera review site.

Based on their purchase history, ritzcamera.com customers -- 65 percent of whom are males age 25 to 54 -- will soon receive recommendations that are intended to drive them once more to the site.

If the consumer has bought an Olympus digital camera, for example, ritzcamera.com would e-mail an offer for an auxiliary lens or additional storage media to complement that item.

Besides cameras and camcorders, ritzcamera.com sells accessories, cases, lenses, video equipment, albums, frames, batteries, binoculars, cellular telephones and telescopes.

"Digital cameras are by far the most popular product," Brysha said.

The goal with the personalized e-mail effort is to raise the per-customer sales on the site. Brysha claims that the average sale on ritzcamera.com is about $280.

Ritzcamera.com expects an average response of 2 percent to 3 percent for the personalized e-mail push, Brysha said.

"Our conversion rate [typically] is between 3 [percent] and 7 percent depending on how the individual comes to our site," he said.

The personalized e-mail, however, is not ritzcamera.com's maiden customer retention initiative.

"To be fair, certainly every newsletter that we send is a customer retention effort in the newsletter area," Brysha said. "The uniqueness of this for us is that this is personalized to the product category that people purchase in."

He admitted that there was always the temptation to communicate more frequently with the ritzcamera.com customer.

"The reason we haven't done this in the past is because we feel that if you talk to them too often, it's perceived as being too pushy or too negative," Brysha said.

"This way we feel that we've given them enough time to enjoy the product they've purchased," he said. "Now we're going to make a recommendation to them on something else they might find helpful and useful in the growth of their imaging experience."


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