Stickers Put Heat on Ice.com Workers to End Warehouse Theft

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Not only is high-volume order accuracy important for the holidays, some direct marketers also have to worry about warehouse theft that may be committed by seasonal workers. Ice.com thinks it found a way to get a firmer grip on both issues with a single packaging idea.


The online jeweler is requiring their 60 pick-and-pack workers -- half of whom are regular employees and the other half holiday temps -- to place stickers printed with their first name and the initial of their last name on each package they prepare. As one example, the sticker reads, "Gift Wrapped For You By Paula M." If a customer receives a package minus an item, the order can be traced to the picker/packer for the sake of accountability. In January, each worker's photo and employee identification number will begin appearing on the stickers.


Theft security is a bigger issue for Ice.com than for other e-tailers, as employees handle items off the conveyor line worth up to $1,000 that easily can be tucked into an article of clothing. The surveillance cameras, metal detectors and pocketless uniforms at its Champlain, NY, warehouse evidently weren't sufficient.


"When you are doubling your pick-and-pack crew at busy times like these, you learn that jewelry is a great thing to walk home from work with," said Pinny Gniwisch, executive vice president of marketing and co-founder of Ice.com, which is headquartered in Montreal. "It's not like a plasma screen TV or something physically large in that nature. Obviously, they can just slip away with a valuable ring or bracelet a lot easier. We wanted to create a better system of accountability. Since using the stickers, theft has already gone down."


The stickers not only are reducing theft, Gniwisch said, they also let Ice.com track the accuracy of every packer and encourage improved individual performances across the warehouse. He said the stickers also might add a throwback service element akin to traditional retail where customers have at least a momentary relationship with the sales help while shopping.


"There's now a greater personalization because of the stickers," he said. "The customers look at the box, and it tells them, 'Helen packed this for you,' and they can see a picture of Helen. I believe that's going to make our customer experience more enjoyable and endear them more to our brand."


Packaging isn't the only customer relationship management area that Ice.com has tweaked. In September, the company traded in its bimonthly e-mail program for a higher-frequency campaign style of one to two messages weekly.


Though the e-mail regularity might seem like a recipe for massive opt-out requests, Gniwisch said the number of recipients asking for removal has been insubstantial. He even cited e-mail as a reason Ice.com predicts it will reach $25 million to $30 million in 2005 sales. This would be up 40 percent over last year.


The 6-year-old company's database of 1 million e-mail addresses has been built via past customer orders as well as people requesting product updates at its Web site and through various affiliate programs. The file is divided into four groups based on past response to e-mail, and each segment receives targeted messages in terms of the featured products, full-color images and ad copy.


Ice.com's demographic entails 70 percent women most of the year, but that drops to 60 percent during the holidays, when more men buy jewelry for women. Its mostly U.S. customer base has an average income of $50,000. In the past 11 months, order size at www.ice.com has climbed from $120 to $180. Orders stemming from e-mail recently hit an average of $200.


"Our e-mail-based sales have doubled since we started focusing on segmentation and heightened our overall emphasis on the medium in September," Gniwisch said. "It's helped lift the general average order size of the Web site as well."


For Monday, Nov. 28, Ice.com said, sales were 94 percent higher than last year's Monday after Thanksgiving. An e-mail sent that morning advertised a high-end bracelet, a 20 percent discount and free shipping on all orders through Dec. 14. Also, a 36-page holiday catalog dropped right before Thanksgiving to 500,000 prospects that supported the big sales day, Gniwisch said.


"It should be noted that we didn't go looking for 'catalog-Internet people' for the book mailing, we went looking for 'catalog-catalog people,'" he said. "But the exposure couldn't have hurt Web sales, that's for sure."


In another attempt to boost sales, Ice.com launches a video program next month that will broadcast product and jewelry-related information. Though planning to spend less than $50,000 on the effort, the company is building a studio set and investing in the necessary video technology.


"We are looking out for different ways of reaching out to the fence sitters who may look at jewelry on a Web site, but have been afraid to make a purchase," said Shmuel Gniwisch, CEO and co-founder of Ice.com. "A video-cast is another way we can showcase the merchandise."


Christopher Heine covers CRM, analytics and production and printing for DM News and DMNews.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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