Pfaltzgraff E-Mails Mold 'Connections' With Customers

Using e-mail management and tracking capabilities it added early this year, pottery maker The Pfaltzgraff Co. conducted a successful e-mail campaign in September announcing the arrival of its Connections catalog.

Pfaltzgraff switched to Experian's ContactMail e-mail delivery and management system at the start of the year after realizing that its e-mail campaigns “were not very interesting. Our messages were straight text, and we had no click-through tracking capabilities, so we couldn't do any analysis,” said Dorothy Bailey, Pfaltzgraff's database manager. “They were primitive e-mails.”

In addition, she said, “internally, our servers didn't have the bandwidth required to handle our quantities.”

With ContactMail, Pfaltzgraff tracks click-through, open and conversion rates online in near real-time and can personalize messages and incorporate forward-to-a-friend technology. Pfaltzgraff did not personalize the September effort, “but we will be doing much more of this in the beginning of next year,” said Howard Blumenthal, Pfaltzgraff's director of e-commerce and database management.

Pfaltzgraff, York, PA, was founded in 1811 and manufactures and markets casual dinnerware and accessories for the home and markets stainless-steel flatware and glass beverage ware. It sells through channels including department, specialty and factory stores, catalogs and at

The September e-mails promoted the company's Connections catalog, which goes out annually, and a new area on the Web site called Connections. The site features stories about Pfaltzgraff collectors, the Pfaltzgraff family and pattern designs. It also includes message boards and chat rooms moderated by Pfaltzgraff personnel.

The e-mails, which arrived days before the catalog hit homes, received an open rate of 40 percent, and more than 40 percent of those who opened clicked through to the Connections portion of the Web site.

The 32-page catalog contains higher-ticket, collectible gift items with classic Pfaltzgraff patterns that are limited in quantity and available only through the Connections catalog, its Web site and at Pfaltzgraff's York headquarters store. The products are designed for serious Pfaltzgraff collectors and contain discontinued and current patterns.

“This is very much a specialty catalog, with limited-edition products, and it is something our customers have been looking for,” Blumenthal said.

Pfaltzgraff also has a standard catalog, issued four or five times yearly and featuring current patterns, and its By Request catalog of made-to-order items sent annually.

Pfaltzgraff segments customer lists in various ways, Blumenthal said, depending on the message. Names and addresses might be segmented geographically, for example, when the e-mail promotes an in-store promotion.

But “in the case of the Connections or By Request catalog, where the patterns in the catalogs are specific, we segment the names on the types of patterns that people buy,” he said. “We will target specific consumers who have expressed an interest in a specific pattern in a specific catalog, such as whether they have purchased that pattern before or have told us that they would like to know more about that pattern.”

Instead of pulling specific names from its database, Pfaltzgraff targeted the whole e-mail list because the catalog included merchandise that would appeal to the whole list.

The messages said the Connections catalog was on its way, explained the catalog and the Web area and highlighted the types of products that would be available. It invited customers to preview the online catalog and Web area and to buy products from the online catalog. It also offered customers the chance to win an authentic, antique Pfaltzgraff jug from the company's archives and invited them to forward the e-mail to a friend and request to be placed on Pfaltzgraff's catalog mailing list.

Blumenthal said e-mail is used for a multiple purposes.

“In some cases they are used to kick off a brand-new catalog, in other cases it may be very targeted special offers for items customers can purchase online or by phone, and in other cases it may actually be coupons that can be redeemed at our retail store,” he said. “We are very much a true multichannel organization, so our catalogs promote the stores as well as the Web site, the Web site promotes the other channels, and so on.”

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