SkyMall Ups Its Internet Ante

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In-flight cataloger SkyMall has invested $20 million into a technology arm for its Internet efforts and revamped its Web site at www.skymall.com for the fourth time since its launch in January 1996.


It recruited top technologist Curtis Brown from Music Boulevard and 20 of his associates for the New York-based initiative.


"We're not just adding .com to the end of our name," said Sandy Goldman, SkyMall's vice president of business development, Phoenix. "We are serious about making e-commerce a very significant part of our performance and we're serious about investing in it to make it a world-class service."


Last year, the company migrated the entire order-taking and database operations for its core print business and e-commerce to an Internet-based infrastructure.


The revamped site, which went live April 6, is significantly faster than its predecessor and offers consumers two new award programs - Gold points, which can be collected to spend on the site, and Click points, which can be redeemed for services at businesses including Radisson Hotels and TGI Fridays or for frequent flier miles.


"We are going to continue to market the revised Web site in the print catalog and we will be launching PR, print and online campaigns in the second half of the year," Goldman said. "These will include banner ads and other promos on the Internet. With the Web site, we are looking to expand our customer base beyond business travelers to more known Internet shoppers, but we are only e-mailing our own customers and we do not intend to buy e-mail lists."


The new site has 35,000 products, three times the content of its print counterpart, and the company encourages vendors to put their whole catalogs online because they are not limited by space as they are in print.


Frontgate.com, one of SkyMall's major partners, welcomes the changes to the site. "We have been in partnership with SkyMall for a number of years and as any direct marketing firm we are looking for new ways to reach new customers," said Dan Lally, a spokesman for Frontgate.com. "The new site will make shopping online easier for customers who know the SkyMall name." However, he refused to discuss the incentives for partners who get in on SkyMall's Web site activity.


SkyMall was unwilling to disclose fiscal projections. "We think the new site will increase the number of sales and the corresponding value of them," Goldman said. "It's tough to project anything, but we think the new interface will increase the transactions and we will be able to validate that within the next 30 days."


Within that period, the company will also make some announcements about its strategy for the next two years.


It currently claims 68 percent market share and has contracts with every U.S. airline except American Airlines with whom it is in talks. It just signed a deal with Northwest and hopes to announce a deal with American later in the year.
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