Web Video Gets Touch of Class

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The Touch of Class Catalog has leaned on direct mail to promote its upper-end home furniture and decor products for most of its 28 years.

But for the past half-decade, the company also has looked to the Internet to give shoppers more angles from which to view its products.

Now, in a test running the next few months, demonstration videos will be available at www.touchofclasscatalog.com. Visitors can watch the in-motion utilities of products, such as the Zen Gardens Bamboo Water Fountain ($249) and Britain Entertainment Center ($2,399).

The Touch of Class Catalog is part of Parke-Bell Ltd., Huntingburg, IN. CEO Fred Bell said the firm recently discovered in a survey that 60 percent of its online orders come from customers holding a catalog while sitting at the computer. Such findings have only fueled his company's belief in a multichannel strategy, he said.

"Our longtime catalog customers like to sit and browse through our book because it helps them put ideas together," Mr. Bell said. "They simply turn to their computers and place their order. It's the multimedia facet to it versus being just one way or the other."

Of course, he hopes that the videos will make the Web site an increasingly interactive sales tool. If customers take to video to the tune of more orders, he said, the investment in the test likely will rise later this year.

Touch of Class already housed a full photography studio, which now also accommodates the video production for online.

"The videos are in their infancy, and we plan to do a lot more with them," said Gary Bell, company vice president of information systems and Fred Bell's son. "It largely arises out of listening to our customers' questions through either live chat, call center or e-mail and hearing them ask for visually oriented details.

"We don't have any measurable results at the moment, but we hope to set up the system so that we can see such numbers," he said. "Over a period of time, we want to know how our customer audience reacts."

The Touch of Class Catalog, averaging $175 per order across direct channels, targets a demographic that's 88 percent female and mostly ages 35-64.

Along with regular monthly mailings, the private firm biannually drops to segmented groups its biggest catalogs in the volume of millions. The autumn book will total 92 pages, and it will go in-home for the week of July 4.

And though the firm uses e-mail for various marketing occasions, it has found that the medium works best directly after a catalog goes in-home.

"That gets a great response," said Becky MacDonald, Internet marketing manager with Touch of Class Catalog. "They may have gotten the catalog in the last day or two, and the e-mail prompts them to pick it up again."

In addition, as other retailers have done recently, the company is considering putting the print version of its catalog online with "turn-the-page" technology.

Fred Bell said that the firm continues to blend the Web and catalog to create the brand experience that has made it a niche player in direct marketing for almost three decades.

"It's a oneness that we are working to achieve," he said. "Whether it's via the Web or through the catalog, we are working to be one company to our customers."

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