Uniting to promote e-commerce

The day after Thanksgiving traditionally kicks off the holiday shopping season. This past holiday season, online catalogers and industry organizations took advantage of that tradition by dubbing the week after the Thanksgiving holiday National Online Shopping Week (NOSW).

Catalogers including Crutchfield, CDnow, Hickory Farms, Eddie Bauer, and Omaha Steaks were among the more than 150 merchants participating in the campaign, which was sponsored by MasterCard; FamilyPC magazine; online promotional marketing company Yoyodyne; EZSpree, an online sweepstakes company; the Association for Interactive Media (AIM), a subsidiary of the Direct Marketing Association (DMA); and Shop.org, an online retail/catalog industry organization.

Many participating catalogers reported better-than-anticipated online sales during the week, but whether that was a result of the campaign remains to be seen. “We can’t attribute our boost in sales directly to the NOSW campaign, but it’s important to heighten awareness about online shopping,” says Marco Pescara, vice president of direct marketing and catalog operations at food marketer Hickory Farms. “It’s a combination of more people accessing the ‘Net, the holiday season in general, and the campaign.”

“This was the first holiday season that almost anything you wanted to buy was available online,” says AIM president Andy Sernovitz. “But it takes effort to spread the word to consumers about the safety of online shopping.”

Participating merchants had to adhere to MasterCard’s transaction guidelines; provide an online privacy policy; and provide online-only incentives during the week. For instance, consumer electronics catalog Crutchfield offered free shipping to shoppers who linked to their Website from the NOSW site; online music marketer CDnow offered a $5 discount on all online purchases. The e-marketers were also encouraged to send customers e-mail promoting the online shopping campaign.

NOSW sponsors and participants plan to introduce several additional consumer awareness campaigns this year.

Questions to ask your vendors regarding their Y2K-readiness:

Is your company actively involved in addressing the Millennium Bug? If so, when do you expect to be Y2K-compliant?

Will you plan and conduct full systems tests of critical systems in 1999?

Can your company ensure that delivery of products and/or services will not be interrupted as of Jan. 1, 2000?

As of Jan. 1, 2000, will you be able to pay employees, produce financial statements, and conduct normal business not directly related to supplying your customers with goods and services?

Have you identified the systems and suppliers that are critical to your ability to continue to supply customers without error or interruption?

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