UPDATE: Nabisco Unwraps First E-Commerce Effort

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Nabisco Inc. next week will inaugurate NabiscoGifts.com, the snacks and confectionery manufacturer's first attempt at selling directly to online consumers.

Positioned as an online location for all-occasion gifts containing Nabisco food products, the site at www.nabiscogifts.com will first target the Parsippany, NJ, company's employees and fundraising organization partners. A public rollout will follow by month's end.

The idea is more branding than merely e-commerce, said Wayne Shurts, vice president of e-business at Nabisco. Gift baskets containing an assortment of Nabisco goodies are integral to that thought process.

"People obviously know our brands, but lots of times they don't always connect," Shurts said. "Planters peanuts and Life Savers [candy] are a part of Nabisco and they may not be all that familiar with our brands, and when they get our gift baskets, which come with an assortment of all our products out there, we may get some trial."

And it's not just trial of familiar products. NabiscoGifts.com -- which succeeds a paper catalog for gift baskets and trinkets discontinued earlier this year -- is expected to get people to try unfamiliar products as well.

"We will [also] get some trial from consumers on some of our brands that they probably haven't tried before and they will buy in the store the next time they're in there," Shurts said.

Nabisco is categorical that it is not out to bypass its traditional retail channel with this online venture, its fifth Web site but the only one that will sell products.

"From us, you cannot buy any product that you can buy in a retail store," Shurts said. "They're all unique gift baskets that are only available online, and we think Nabisco products are a fit with the gifting market. Lots of people send flowers. We actually believe that gift baskets made up of Nabisco products [are] ... more long-lasting."

So, consumers looking to buy individual items at NabiscoGifts.com will be disappointed. To allow that, Nabisco admits, would be to compete with retailers -- a prospect that has daunted many manufacturers from plunging into online selling to consumers.

In fact, the gift basket itself holds the branding key for Nabisco. Priced from $17.99 to $99.99, the baskets basically are sturdy tins and boxes created specifically to hold quantities of Nabisco items such as Oreo, SnackWell's and Fig Newton cookies, Ritz and Cheese Nip crackers, Wheat Thins, Life Savers candy, Planters nuts and Chips Ahoy.

"One of our plus points," Shurts said, "is that when you buy one of our gift baskets, it comes in a basket or box or some sort of container that lives on its useful life long after the product's consumed or long after the flowers would die.

"For instance, one of our product offerings is a giant-size Barnum's animal, like the small, normal size. It's a very heavy corrugated box that can be used as a tool chest or whatever afterward, and almost all of our products have that afterlife value."

Marketing plans for NabiscoGifts.com are conservative. Sister sites such as the flagship Nabisco.com, NabiscoWorld.com, Candystand.com and NabiscoRecipes.com are expected to drive traffic to the new site.

Traffic to Candystand.com, which is Life Savers' site, and NabiscoWorld.com combined is nearly 3 million unique visits a month, according to Shurts.

"We have approaching 150,000 opt-in e-mail names [collected from the Nabisco sites], and we'll be doing e-mail campaigns from all of our sites," Shurts said.

Nabisco is exploring affiliate relationships with retailers and fundraising organizations, which will get a cut of transactions for sales diverted to NabiscoGifts.com.

NabiscoGifts.com is built, hosted and managed by Digital River Inc., Minneapolis. The Jay Group, Lancaster, PA, handles order fulfillment.

Digital River also will analyze all traffic and post-purchase data and will determine the best customers based on recency, frequency and dollar value of orders.

In NabiscoGifts.com's case, Digital River will even assist with branding -- a departure from standard practice with other clients, which normally have advertising agencies do that task.

"When you think of Nabisco, you don't necessarily think of gifts," said Sam Richter, senior director of e-business marketing at Digital River. "While at the same time we're trying to generate revenue and online commerce, we actually have to introduce consumers to, 'Here's an alternative to flowers, to other gifts you might buy.' "

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