iMall Focuses On E-Commerce, DM; Sales Jump 25%

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Internet mall iMall recently shifted its focus from Web-site building to e-commerce and direct response marketing and saw its merchants' sales go up 25 percent, according to company CEO and founder Richard Rosenblatt.


Since its launch in 1995, iMall, Studio City, CA has been running direct response radio spots touting "how-to-make-money-on-the-Web" seminars, which until recently was its main source of revenue. For $2,995, seminar attendees receive 12 hours of instruction on e-commerce and then for either $59 per month or about 7 percent of sales, whichever is greater, they get two sites on iMall.


Rosenblatt said that iMall is spending $40,000 per week on radio advertising in the top 20 markets in the United States and that the ads are attracting from 75 to 100 people to three seminars a week around the country.


Though the seminars still are an iMall staple, the recent emergence of online buying has spurred the company to pour more resources into e-commerce, Rosenblatt said.


"A year and a half ago, we focused more on building Web sites and less on whether merchants sold products because we didn't believe you could make enough revenue from the sale of products," he said. "After two and a half years, we believe the market is mature enough to focus on building online commerce."


The most obvious example of the company's shift toward more direct marketing-oriented tactics is its home page at www.imall.com, which now highlights merchants' products rather than trying to create an image.


"We used to have a splash page that was really big and really beautiful, but the products were an extra click away. We're making the transition from being big and beautiful to being quick and functional -- and it's really increased our sales," said Rosenblatt, who declined to give sales figures for iMall's 1,600 merchants.


The company recently hired an executive from AT&T with 20 years of direct marketing experience to oversee iMall's marketing efforts. The hire is part of the company's plan to spend $8 million on print, radio and Web direct response advertising this year to bring in new merchants and drive traffic to iMall's site. Rosenblatt said he was unable to detail where the money would be spent.


"We're putting together a marketing plan right now," he said, adding that iMall is spending $150,000 per month on Internet advertising attract consumers to its site.


To create another revenue stream, iMall, which went public in January 1996, also is beginning to sell banner advertising for between $20 and $40 per thousand impressions.


"We would argue that our audience is highly qualified because unlike search engines -- where people stop off and then leave -- we're a destination where people go to shop," said Rosenblatt, who added that iMall attracts 100,000 visitors a day.
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