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RedEnvelope Tests Catalog to Expand Base Beyond the Web

RedEnvelope Gifts Online, San Francisco, is the latest dot-com moving offline into print catalog territory to promote its specialty gifts. The catalog, which is forecasted to launch later this year, is being tested now in the wake of better-than-expected holiday results.

A prospecting test booklet are arriving in 650,000 consumer mailboxes this week touting “decidedly different” Valentine’s Day gifts, including “naughty” fortune cookies and edible body paint for couples. As with many dot-coms that recognize the need for an offline presence to drive traffic and find customers who strictly reside in an offline world, the strategy for the fledgling company is customer acquisition.

“It was definitely in line with our current acquisition model,” said Chas Akers, director of database marketing at RedEnvelope, about the test booklet. “It’s a good vehicle for us to develop a customer base.”

Beyond building its database, the catalog provides another marketing channel. “It was a natural extension to give customers the opportunity to purchase online or through the catalog,” said Akers.

The move might also provide the company with added insurance against the rumblings of consolidation and mergers among e-commerce players predicted by Internet analysts.

The 5-inch-by-7-inch, 16-page test catalog was mailed to RedEnvelope’s more than 100,000 customers, as well as 550,000 prospective customers taken from list rentals of proven direct mail buyers through American List Counsel, Princeton, NJ. It was designed inhouse and printed by Heritage Press, Dallas.

Free overnight shipping on orders received by midnight EST on Feb. 11 is employed as an incentive to order from the new catalog. The offer is not extended to its Web site, www.RedEnvelope.com.

The timing of the Valentine’s Day booklet, according to Akers, gives customers ample time to order through the mail or online, but also arrives close enough to the holiday to remain top of mind.

If all goes well with the test, RedEnvelope will begin planning a more expansive catalog rollout to take advantage of year-round business in the specialized, upscale gift merchandise category and give it an edge over competitors Gifts.com and Send.com.

“We would obviously expand the number of pages and the format with a wider rollout,” Akers said. “We have to wait and see what the analysis shows.”

RedEnvelope committed $10 million to an integrated advertising campaign via Leagas Delaney that began in November to raise brand awareness when the company changed its name from 911gifts.com. The campaign will continue to include print, direct mail inserts, online banner ads, and outdoor advertising in key cities.

Print ads produced specifically for the Valentine’s Day effort appear in the February issues of GQ, Vanity Fair and In Style. Direct communications also continue to go to members who have signed up for Red Envelope’s gift reminder service, a customer-relationship management tool that prompts members with customized gift reminders for special occasions.

E-mail marketing via Digital Impact to its customer base continues to go out biweekly. Early next month, e-mail to prospects via Meta Response Group Palm City, FL, an e-mail list broker, will be tested in conjunction with the Valentine’s Day effort.

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