May 18, 2001
SUMMARY: Statistically over the past three years, the average Internet surfer has frequented fewer and fewer sites per week. It used to be over 40, then it halved to about 20, now the number's at about six. People may be spending more time and money online, but they are going to fewer places. At the same time, most marketers are trying to fight these metrics; trying to find ways to get qualified visitors to come to their sites more frequently ... and then to buy something either online or at a retail store. Here's a Case Study about a small local... || |
We heard about Miss Pixie's because we shop there for retro office furniture for MarketingSherpa. When we stopped in last week to pick up something, the Proprietor herself was at the cash register. "How's that Web site going?" we asked idly. "Funny thing," she said, "I've got people returning to it every single week. And then they come to the store to buy stuff."
That's when we realized that, although we normally don't cover small businesses (it's just not our beat), Pixie's story might have some useful tips for bigger retailers.
Pixie Windsor, Proprietor of Miss Pixie's Furnishings & Whatnot, didn't start a Web site because she thought it would make any money for her small Washington DC used furnishings store.
Back in the fall of 1999, she bought her first PC just to "get a bit more organized" and to be able to check her prices out against what was posted on eBay. She says, "I definitely didn't want to sell online. I would never have time to pack things up and ship them off."
Windsor's part-time delivery guy is also a part-time Web consultant. So when he offered to put up a shop Web site for a token fee, Windsor thought, "Why not?" She says, "I just wanted to give customers directions and hours. I really didn't think there'd be too much of a sales factor to it."
With hot pink curtains in the windows and a daily batch of freshly baked cookies in a 50s ceramic platter, Miss Pixie's has a lot more personality than the average used furniture store. So Pixie's site was designed to directly reflect the store's feeling of fun and whimsy.
Pixie's is also well known in its neighborhood for being the only retailer that changes its window display completely every single week. Locals automatically slow down to check out each week's display as they stroll by (and often in.) Windsor's Web designer suggested she take this marketing tactic onto the Web as well.
Windsor changes her window display just before Thursday's at noon to take advantage of the heavier weekend trade. So, now every Thursday her Web designer snaps 10-12 digital pics of the latest hot items she's selected, and pops them up on the site just before noon as well. Windsor decided against heavy copy. She says, "I try to keep it simple. 'Danish style table with four chairs.' I find people have no problem calling if they have questions." The entire updating process takes less than an hour.
Site surfers can take advantage of the "Free eHold" offer by using the phone or email to ask Windsor to hold an item for them for 24 hours.
After seeing slow, but steady traffic gains at first, Windsor helped things along by having "www.misspixies.com" painted in large white letters at the bottom of both her shop front windows.
Two-three times as many people shop Miss Pixie's virtually through the Web site each week as actually come in the store. About 90% of the items featured on the site end up being sold within four days of appearing.
That doesn't mean store traffic has lessened. Quite to the contrary. Windsor says, "I'm much busier Thursday evenings now from people coming to see things. Plus people bring friends from work. I've had people who've never been in the store before say, 'I saw your site on my friend's computer at work and I want that dinette set!'"
On average about 8% of site visitors use the eHold service. Two thirds call in their eHold and the rest email it. Windsor says, "Thursday at noon the phone starts to ring!" Approximately 70% of the items on eHold end up being purchased by the people who requested it.
Windsor also thinks the Web site has helped shorten her sales cycle for larger items. She says, "Especially things like sofas, people have to have everyone they know look at it with them." Now potential buyers don't have to drag their friends to the store, they can just send them to the site.
Windsor knows she has a solid fan base of several hundred regular customers who routinely check the site for updates every Thursday, and she doesn't like to disappoint them. So when the shop closes for a month every Summer while she's on vacation, she sends in regularly updated snapshots that appear as pop-ups. Last year visitors got to see the various fish she caught in Wisconsin. This July everyone's looking forward to snaps of her flea market finds in Paris!
NOTE: We used to hear lots of marketers talking about updating their site daily to "keep people coming back daily." This Case Study made us wonder if maybe people aren't too busy these days to come back daily to most places? And once you get in the habit of missing changes, why return at all? Perhaps Windsor has the right idea in creating a fun weekly event -- new stuff for sale at the site just in time for her audience's Thursday lunch hour.