For jewelry Web site ice.com, the road from cyberspace to the printed page was paved with rocks — as in the sparkling, expensive kind.
The Montreal-based e-commerce business debuted in 1999 and has an average ticket price of $120. Most of its customers are in the United States.
But when ice.com's first catalog launched in early October in advance of the holiday season, it carried some ultra-expensive items not found on the Web site. Quite a few sold, including six $5,000 diamond necklaces, said Pinny Gniwisch, executive vice president of marketing and co-founder of ice.com.
As a result, the firm added the higher-priced collection, called The Vault, to its Web site.
The success of these pricey baubles was a surprise because, unlike many jewelry companies, ice.com sees itself as targeting women for their fashion accessory dollars. That's why its average sale is so low. Many gold and diamond items can be found on ice.com in the $100 to $200 price range, with some under $100. Some other jewelry companies, in comparison, target men and do most of their business in big-ticket items around major holidays.
Ice.com's positioning has proven successful, as the company has been profitable since 2001, Gniwisch said. Sales in 2004 were 52 percent higher than in 2003, he added.
Discovering that its audience would buy expensive jewelry wasn't the only lesson ice.com's executives learned from creating a catalog. Another was that consumers who had been clicking on the site, but not buying anything, actually bought something once they had the catalog, Gniwisch said.
“The catalog solidifies our brand and gives us more of an identity as a brand,” he said. “It shows that we will be staying here for a long time.”
The 36-page catalog mailed in early October to 500,000 names. The mailing list was split evenly between existing customers and prospects. Ice.com included unique coupons in the catalog so it could track how well it drove Web sales.
Ice.com's prospecting targeted consumers who have shown an interest in jewelry from a general gift list.
“The prospecting list we rented did extremely well,” Gniwisch said.
As of Nov. 27, initial results from the catalog show a 0.25 percent conversion rate and $547,000 in sales.
The catalog featured 375 items culled from the 7,000 found online.
“We chose what we felt would do best in a catalog environment,” Gniwisch said. These included items that “come across as a better buy.”
Along with testing a high-end line in the catalog, ice.com also tested offering engraving as a service for customers.
“We wanted to see if customers would request it, and they did,” he said.
This service eventually will be added to the Web site.
The company is considering producing a small catalog for Mother's Day. For this year's holiday book, it plans to raise circulation from the 500,000 printed for the recent issue.
“We'll go larger now that we know the results,” Gniwisch said.
By 2006, ice.com hopes to mail three catalogs annually, for St. Valentine's Day, Mother's Day and the holiday season.
Chantal Todé covers catalog news for DM News.com. To keep up with the latest catalog news subscribe to our free e-mail newsletter DM News Daily by visiting www.dmnews.com/newsletters