Ross-Simons, Bill Me Later Partnership Produces Gems

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When average order sizes increased after Ross-Simons introduced I4 Commerce's credit card alternative Bill Me Later, the jewelry multichannel merchant decided to become I4's first client for its latest introduction: a private-label credit card. Preliminary results look just as promising.


Ross-Simons, Cranston, RI, introduced Bill Me Later in October 2003. To apply, shoppers enter their birth date, the last four digits of their Social Security number as well as a name, address and phone number on Ross-Simons' Web site, ross-simons.com. The approval process takes about three seconds.


This combination of convenience and perceived security -- since there's no need to enter a credit card number -- has proven helpful in attracting new customers, said Charles White, Ross-Simons vice president of marketing.


"We see this as a vehicle for people who are just trying us out and don't want to make a long-term commitment," he said.


Since its introduction, the company has seen a mid-20 percent rise in average order values, White said. On occasion, Ross-Simons works with I4 to promote special deals via e-mail blasts such as deferred billing for 90 days or as much as a year around St. Valentine's Day and other gift-giving holidays.


"We see a greater response for those offers," White said.


Not all Bill Me Later purchases are one-offs, however.


"Roughly 20 percent of the people reuse the Bill Me Later product," he said.


While Bill Me Later has brought incremental sales, Ross-Simons was also looking for a way to reward loyal customers. The brand, which has 14 retail stores and mails about 50 million catalogs annually, has been around for more than 50 years.


Ross-Simons teamed with I4 again to launch a private-label credit card in September 2004, but logistical issues prevented roll out to the company's retail stores until February.


The card offers benefits such as 10 percent off a shopper's first order and 12-month deferred billing on orders exceeding $500. Other than that the card can be used only at Ross-Simons stores, on its Web site or via its call centers, it operates like any traditional credit card.


"We launched the card almost from the standpoint of a defensive measure," White said. "A lot of competitors are offering private-label credit cards, and we felt it was necessary to compete."


It's also a way to keep the brand and its message in front of the customer, he said. To date, 11,500 customers have signed up for the card.


"We find that our better house file customers respond very well to the Ross-Simons card," White said.


The card is popular in the stores, White said, and for customers using it, the average order has increased more than seven times.


To encourage people to sign up, Ross-Simons periodically runs promotions such as one that will be featured in the fall catalog, which starts arriving in homes in mid-July. In addition to offering $15 off orders of $150 or more, the promotion will offer anyone who signs up for the Ross-Simons credit card free shipping on their order.


Merchants that have added the Bill Me Later credit card alternative in 2005 include Wal-Mart, Lego, Lamps Plus and Levenger.


Chantal Todé covers catalog and retail news and BTB marketing for DM News and DM News.com. To keep up with the latest developments in these areas, subscribe to our daily and weekly e-mail newsletters by visiting www.dmnews.com/newsletters


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