Millard Webserts Target Online Shoppers

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Millard Group Inc., a Peterborough, NH, subsidiary of database giant infoUSA Inc., recently launched a Websert program from its insert media division AM/Direct.

Webserts, or online package inserts, are ads that appear in the post-transaction e-mail after a customer has made a purchase. Initial response to the program has been favorable, according to Millard.

"The Websert concept is quite simple," said Jeff Savastano, an account manager at Millard. "In addition to delivering a physical package insert, we thought about how we could mirror the traditional advertising messages to shoppers in an online environment."

The addition of a Websert program dovetails with online shopping, a practice that has grown increasingly mainstream. Millard's program comes as e-commerce continues to gain retail market share, with room to grow, according to Cambridge, MA-based Forrester Research's report, "Trends 2006 Online Retail: Key Marketing, Merchandising and Operations Initiatives for 2006."

Forrester said that e-commerce has seen rapid growth in the past 10 years, though nearly 30 percent of North American Internet users still do not make buys online. This may be due largely to low technology comfort levels. One way to overcome these issues is for retailers to provide PayPal or "Bill Me Later" options.

Safety is another growing influencer of e-commerce behavior. According to Forrester, 40 percent of customers reported cutting back on online shopping in 2005 because of security concerns.

Branded Webserts may address the security issue for online shoppers. Like traditional inserts, a Websert comes with an implied endorsement from the program owner, a brand that the customer already has trusted with an online sales transaction.

Webserts are sent after an online order is placed but before the product has been received, thus reaching consumers earlier in the shopping cycle than a package insert.

"The important thing to note here is that Webserts reach the same customers as package inserts, but they deliver this consumer while they are still shopping," Mr. Savastano said. "Typically, the shopper has their credit card handy and is continuing to shop."

Millard offers Websert programs with clothing retailers including Ashro, an African-American women's catalog; Paul Fredrick Menstyle, a men's business wear retailer; and babystyle, an online cataloger of clothing, toys and accessories for infants and maternity wear. Other Millard Websert program owners include Blockbuster, Gadget Universe, Brookstone and drugstore.com.

"A big benefit of Webserts to program owners is the ease of deployment," Mr. Savastano said. "There is little or no cost to the program to put one, or more, of these ads on their site."

The standard price for Millard's online insert is $36/M. Monthly impression rates on program owners' Web sites will influence price.

"One more benefit is gained when the Websert is used in conjunction with a traditional package insert ..." he said. "By making the consumer aware of the forthcoming insert, the ad increases the response rate of that insert."

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