A Cut Above
The key elements in the companies’ databases are what Alpert describes as “smart codes” — unique product codes for every marketing presentation of an item. The two catalogs may have any number of different product codes for a single SKU, so each way it’s presented can be evaluated separately. “These codes allow us to always know the offer [catalog, e-mail campaign, Web search] and the page where a customer saw the item,” she explains. “This way, even if they don’t give us a source code and they order on the Web, we know exactly what drove the sale, and it feeds all the way down to the square inch.”
Alpert observed that many catalogers saw their merchandise and circulation analytics “break” when customer purchasing behavior migrated to the Web. “That didn’t happen for us, because all of these codes feed our custom-built forecasting tools, rendering much more accurate matchback analysis than most catalog companies. It allows us a better understanding of the true catalog component of Web volume, with better allocation of unknowns to the right campaign.” Both bring in about 30 percent of incoming catalog orders.
On the front end, both the Uno Alla Volta and Cooking Enthusiast sites will be relaunched in September. Their new incarnations will feature a new Web engine with ample opportunities to capture cross-selling as well as search engine optimization. According to Terri Alpert, “Our old platform prevented us from doing any of the natural cross-selling and the traditional Web analytics.”
For the two brands, not concentrating on the Web earlier represented a missed opportunity. “We did have a Web site,” Alpert insists of the early days, “just not a great one. It’s a question of priorities: Too many top priorities and you simply fail at a lot of things.”
As for a potential brand launch and/or acquisition, which the company’s been quietly pursuing, Alpert won’t reveal specifics now, but says proprietary product and housefile synergies are a must. “I want to get the foundation strong,” she says. “I’m always worried about the crashing and burning.”