Successful Tests Lead Eziba To Expand Catalog Efforts

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In the two months leading up to the 2000 holiday season,, a multichannel retailer of artisan-made goods, ran several e-mail and catalog test campaigns and subsequently saw its December sales exceed its business plan by 32 percent.

EZiba, North Adams, MA, also reported an average order size of about $120.

Using the test results as a barometer, the company plans to mail about 10 catalogs throughout the year. The first catalog -- with a Valentine's Day theme -- went out Jan. 15 to more than 400,000 customers and has seen a little more than a 1 percent response rate.

EZiba began testing in August, when it mailed 5-inch-by-7-inch postcards to 800,000 prospects, said Cindy Marshall, vice president of marketing at eZiba. The objective of the mailing was to build awareness, drive people to a unique eZiba URL and test the effectiveness of the 80 lists the company rented from various companies, she said.

Marshall said that while only 8 percent of the prospects visited the unique URL, the postcards were successful because those who did not visit the URL still logged on to the company's main site.

The postcards also identified the most targeted lists, Marshall said, citing apparel lists, gift buyers' lists and high-end home décor lists as the categories that prospects responded to the most.

"Instead of shooting in the dark and not knowing how the lists would work, we used the postcards," she said. "And now we had a base to go on for the October and November mailings."

EZiba ran its first catalog test Oct. 15, mailing 5.5-inch-by-8.5-inch catalogs to 500,000 people, Marshall said. The campaign, which cost the company about 35 cents per catalog to deliver, pulled in about a 1 percent response rate, she said.

EZiba simultaneously ran a test e-mail campaign, which was delivered to the company's customer file of 50,000, Marshall said. EZiba also has agreements with targeted companies to include hyperlinks to eZiba's Web site in their e-mail newsletters, she said.

In addition, eZiba has agreements with certain companies to deliver eZiba-branded prospective e-mails to their customer bases, Marshall said. All of the e-mails combined reach potentially millions, she said.

The hyperlinks in the e-mail also drive prospects to sections of the site where they can request catalogs, Marshall said.

"I make sure that every time a book drops I've got it backed up with customer and prospect e-mails," she said.

Because eZiba has been running integrated campaigns, Marshall said, the company plans to conduct research as early as spring on how consumers respond to multichannel marketing.

EZiba ran another test campaign Nov. 15, Marshall said. The catalog, which had a different cover, was mailed to the same 500,000 people as the first one, she said.

The average order size was about $120, Marshall said. EZiba's goal was to acquire customers at a cost of $25 per customer, but the company did not reach that target, she said.

Marshall would not reveal the company's customer acquisition costs.

But though the company spent more than the targeted $25 per customer, Marshall said it is still paying less than its rivals or pure-play dot-coms.

"It's silly to spend $200 to $300 to acquire a customer online," Marshall said. "Everything I look at, I figure out how many orders and orders per buyer and what is my cost.

"We won't do advertising with somebody or do an e-mail with somebody unless we know it's going to perform," she said.

Based on the success of the first two campaigns, Marshall said, the company mailed an impromptu catalog at the start of the holiday season to 250,000 customers. The three catalogs combined helped eZiba surpass its business plan by 32 percent, she said.

Marshall said eZiba is finishing up its test phase. The first few campaigns this year, she said, would be 80 percent so-called continuation customers, and the rest still would be tests on lists.

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