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Nestle Debuts E-Cards to Build VeryBestBaking.com Database

Nestle USA has launched a data-gathering measure for its VeryBestBaking.com site during what it acknowledges is the worst baking period for its brands.

The Swiss-owned corporation will build its online database of consumers by encouraging them to e-mail greeting cards to friends and family. E-mailing such cards automatically enrolls the senders in a sweepstakes.

“We wanted to launch in the summer — it's our off time — and make sure we've got it working well and that it goes very well in the fourth quarter,” said Ken Crites, e-business marketing director at Nestle USA's baking products base in Solon, OH.

The initiative targets mothers who work part time or are homemakers in 15 million households in the United States. These households, about 15 percent of the U.S. total, bake products almost from scratch.

Sending the card requires details such as name, e-mail address and message. More importantly, consumers have a chance to register for a monthly e-mail newsletter on baking — a key way for Nestle to corral more names.

VeryBestBaking.com features recipes, articles, tips and tools for consumers interested in baking. The site indirectly promotes Nestle's Toll House, Carnation, Libby and Albers baking brands.

SharedGreetings Inc., a New York interactive marketing firm that offers customer relationship management and branding tools, powers the site's cards and sweepstakes. For the Nestle service, SharedGreetings is using its debut product, CARDS 2.0, which stands for Customer Acquisition and Relationship Development Service.

Since the online cards and sweepstakes went live in early June, VeryBestBaking.com has garnered 1,500 new registrants. This adds to the site's database of 250,000 consumers signed up for the e-mail newsletter.

The site drew an estimated 180,000 unique visitors last month, a figure that reaches 250,000 in the fourth quarter, the prime baking period. But many simply window-shop and leave no trace.

“That's the problem we're answering with e-cards,” Crites said. “We only usually get 10 percent of the people to sign up, and we're hoping to increase that.”

James Fahey, CEO of SharedGreetings, agrees with that assessment.

“People come to a site like VeryBestBaking.com and wander around and look around and go away,” Fahey said. “Nestle has no idea of who they are. They don't actually sign up for something or register or purchase something. And once they go away, Nestle has no way of following up with them to get them to come back or do anything else that has anything to do with Nestle.”

This way, through online cards and the lure of sweepstakes prizes, such as mugs, timers and pumpkin kits, Nestle can capture names of people whom the marketer would not have known about otherwise.

Fahey claims that 35 percent of consumers who visit the cards area of the baking site send a card.

“And because SharedGreetings integrates the greeting card element, it attracts like-minded people who otherwise would not have heard about the VeryBestBaking site back to the site because they're recipients of those cards,” he said.

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