Glasses E-Tailer Sees Results From E-Mail

Debby Burk Optical, a marketer of reading glasses, used e-mail to promote a close-out sale of several dozen styles no longer manufactured by its suppliers.

“We want to move them out,” said CEO Burton Burk, whose company carries the name of his wife. “There are about 300 styles available on our Web site, but 25 to 35 styles are no longer available. [Manufacturers produce them] for two or three years and then stop production.”

The Plainview, NY, company placed “Warehouse Clearance Sale on Reading Glasses” in the subject line of the e-mail sent to 12,000 active customers on its house file. Numerous links and a generous use of photos and graphics were not part of the strategy. A photo of several pairs of glasses appeared under the words, “To our preferred customers only: WAREHOUSE CLEARANCE SALE.” Recipients were directed to the Web site and an offer of 25 percent off an order of five pairs or more.

The e-mail ends with: “Wishing you all a happy & healthy New Year. Debby & Burt.”

“Keep it simple and make it easy, that's our approach,” he said. “Too much copy and you can forget it.”

Another approach is to stick with in-house lists.

“You don't know what you're getting when you buy lists,” he said. “They're not trustworthy. We've tried it before, and it doesn't work.

“So far we have about 400 orders, and we usually get a good response from our e-mails. These are also people who come back with repeat orders. It's a good active list. It will produce sales for maybe 10 to 15 days because if they don't order immediately, they will print it out. After a couple of weeks they probably would have lost it. Within that period of time we should get 500 to 600 orders. That's very good. Any time you can even get 1 to 2 percent you're doing well.”

The e-mail has produced an average order of $50.

The company has tried catalogs, but found them too expensive at $1.50 to $2 per book, Burk said.

About 60 percent of the company's customers are women.

“We get a lot of baby boomers and young people who get eyestrain, so our over-40 market is moving down to 30- and 35-year-olds,” he said. “Due to increased computer usage, we're getting a lower market in terms of average age.”

He said 90 percent of the company's orders are placed online with the rest coming via the toll-free number.

“I have ophthalmologists and optometrists buying from me and selling to their patients,” he said. “A lot of people who have distance problems will buy a frame from us and take it to their optometrist since our optical frames can be used for those who have a prescription.”

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