Special Report: Affiliate Marketing
Already outsourcing all online catalog design and management, General Mills sought the advice of its Web design provider on building brand awareness on the Internet. The provider suggested Shop.com, a comparison shopping affiliate site. Shop.com allows Web surfers to search for any product across a vast number of brands.
General Mills provided Shop.com with a spreadsheet detailing the Making a Home product catalog. Information on the spreadsheet included item names, numbers, descriptions, images, pricing and inventory information. In 1999, General Mills was manually updating this spreadsheet each quarter. Shop.com added that information to the searchable database on its site.
General Mills contracted with Shop.com for an annual hosting fee of $7,500 and paid a percentage commission in the mid-teens on each order.
Initially, Shop.com started providing about 50 orders a month for the Making a Home catalog, says Camilla Grozian-Lorentzen, associate direct marketing manager for General Mills. Additionally, General Mills was able to market to each new customer acquired through Shop.com.
Grozian-Lorentzen notes of the project’s success, “The exposure and awareness we were trying to generate would’ve been fine, because it was a marketing investment. But as it turned out, it’s actually a revenue generator.”
While pleased with Shop.com’s results, General Mills shuttered the Making a Home catalog in 2002. At the same time, however, officials at the company decided to place Betty Crocker’s 4,000 products on Shop.com’s site.
Automated XML Feed
Now, rather than sending updates quarterly, General Mills has set up an automated XML feed that pulls all the necessary product information from the Betty Crocker database and sends it to Shop.com daily. Grozian-Lorentzen notes that process took a few weeks to set up and test.
Several times a day, Shop.com sends a batch of orders to General Mills. While Shop.com captures transactional information on its site, General Mills processes the payment for each order. While Shop.com provided 1 percent of Betty Crocker’s online sales in the first year, the program has grown to nearly 5 percent of the catalog’s total online sales.