DMNews talks with Steve August, operational VP of customer marketing, Brookstone

Steve August, operational VP of customer marketing at Brook­stone, discusses how it worked with Mercent to drive results across several shopping engines

Q What caused Brookstone to turn its focus to shopping engine data feeds?

A We’re getting ready to launch a new Web site, and we wanted to have a sense of how our new system would interact with flows of data. One of the major concerns that surfaced once we started taking a look at this area was our feeds to Amazon, because we weren’t seeing the growth that we wanted to see. We knew that Amazon could be a lot more powerful for us.

Q How did you address this issue?

A By August of 2008, we had launched with Mercent’s on-demand platform Mercent Retail to maximize sales and merchandising control through Amazon and, soon after, started rolling it out to other shopping sites as well.

Q How was this platform different from what you had done in the past?

A The Mercent interface enables our marketing department to easily lay down business rules and dynamically control data. We can change one item or hun­dreds of items, even pricing and shipping options, giving us a lot more flexibility in the shopping engine environment. In the past, we had to work with the IT department a lot to manage the data feeds and, because we wanted to be respectful of their resources, we weren’t always able to move as quickly as we would have liked. As a result, we had been pretty static in terms of what we were sending over the data feeds.

Q What was the result for consumers?

A We were able to map our SKUs to all of the categories that Brookstone is able to sell in, which put us in between eight and 10 categories on Amazon. Prior to that, we were showing up in only three categories. We also were able to clean up our data. As a result, all 3,300 SKUs that we were feeding Amazon started getting picked up. In the past, only about 1,800 out of the 3,300 SKUs would show up on Amazon because of problems with the data.

Q Has the program worked as well for other shopping sites?

A With Mercent’s tool, we can create a customized optimization strategy for each shopping engine, modifying the data to meet the needs of a particular engine.

Q What are some results?

A In the channels that we are managing in partnership with Mercent, we saw more than 20% growth during the holiday sea­son. Plus, our Amazon sales are positive and outpacing our expectations for the first quarter.

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