Tavolo Mails Sampler Catalog to Lure Prospects to Web Site

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Tavolo doesn't expect to sell many Zojirushi bread makers from its print catalog, but it does hope to use its catalog to bring new customers who like to break bread to its Web site.

"We carry almost 9,000 products, and it's by no means meant to be a comprehensive listing of our product offering; whereas, if you compare it to some of the other catalogs in our category that are out there -- people who have catalog businesses -- it really is 'This is everything that we offer.' [Our catalog] is really meant to be 'Here's a sampling of what you'll find at Tavolo,'" said Cara Schlanger, vice president of marketing at Tavolo Inc., San Rafael, CA.

Tavolo rolls out its full-size 12-page spring catalog -- its second print book -- in March and April to 1.5 million customers, mostly prospects. Its first catalog -- an eight-page holiday book in a smaller format -- was mailed in November to 500,000 prospects "who have an epicurean interest and purchase behavior," said Schlanger. Products highlighted in the spring catalog range from food processors to wok sets to pasta.

The print catalogs seem to be working well for the company as a prospecting tool, rather than a significant sales-generating channel. "Most of the catalog sales that we had, even from the small drop last November, were people coming to the Web and ordering," as opposed to placing orders via Tavolo's toll-free phone number, according to Schlanger.

Tavolo, an exclusive partner of the Napa Valley, CA-based Culinary Institute of America, plans to produce a catalog for the upcoming holiday season. The company also sends postcards to its house file to promote spring holidays such as Easter and Mother's Day.

The cataloger uses Paradysz Matera & Co., New York, as its list broker, but Schlanger declined to give the size of the marketer's house file. Quebecor Printing Corp., Hoffman Estates, IL, is the cataloger's printer. Both catalogs were designed inhouse.

Competitors of the direct marketer range from San Francisco-based Williams-Sonoma Inc. to Chicago-based Crate & Barrel, both of which have retail stores and an online and offline catalog presence, according to Schlanger, but "their online is a supplement [and] we are a pure play."

The company primarily generates its sales online, according to Schlanger, who declined to give Tavolo's 1999 sales figures or the ratio of sales generated online versus offline.

Tavolo's Web site, which was originally launched in 1997 as www.digitalchef.com and became www.tavolo.com last summer, was relaunched last month to correspond with the spring catalog drop. The revamped site offers new functions, including a recipe-finding feature, which allows cooks to search for recipes by ingredient, course or key word, and a gift recommendation section.

The marketer will also launch a loyalty program during the next three months in which customers will be able to earn points for purchases and redeem them for future ones, according to Schlanger.

The site will eventually be able to track customer behavior using data collected by NetGenesis Corp., Cambridge, MA, and recommend products that are targeted to individual customers' needs.

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