Web marketing is Kids Stuff

A year ago, the Website of $16.7 million children’s products mailer Kids Stuff was still in the conceptual stage. But by the first quarter of 2000, the site accounted for 15% of total sales. And by the fourth quarter of this year, president Jeanne Miller predicts, Internet sales will make up as much as 40% of the Canton, OH-based company’s revenue.

The site – which sells products from the company’s Kids Club, Perfectly Safe, and Natural Baby print catalogs, and the online-only Little Feet shoes business – launched this past October. Promotions such as a $10 discount toward and a free gift for all Web purchases helped to quickly double online response. That company also created a full-time Web marketing position.

Kids Stuff signed on with the Yahoo!-hosted Yahoo! Shopping, a collection of catalog offers, which drew about half of the company’s Web traffic right off the bat. The cataloger pays just $250-$300 a month for the service, but Miller plans to rebuild the Kids Stuff site by the fall and begin running it independently from Yahoo! “We’re now using Yahoo!’s shopping basket,” she says, so orders are transmitted to Yahoo!, which processes them and sends them electronically to Kids Stuff for fulfillment.

Being independent of the Web portal will enable Kids Stuff to offer more unique features and improve service, says Rod Murillo, president of Boulder, CO-based Synertech, a Website development firm. “Yahoo! Shopping is a good way to test the feasibility of your site, and Yahoo! handles all facets of the site for you,” he says. “But it’s impossible to modify the site in any customized way.”

More improvements on the way

Before Kids Stuff can run its site independently, however, it needs to automate its online order processing. Currently, “we receive our orders through Yahoo!, print them out, and key them all in manually,” says Miller, who hopes to have Web order processing fully automated and integrated within its regular order-taking system by midsummer.

“That will cut our fulfillment costs in half,” Miller says. “We are writing and developing our own proprietary software, using a Pick database, which enables us to store a lot of information in a small amount of space. And the cost is just a week or so worth of work for my MIS manager.”

In terms of the Website’s creative, the company is revamping one Web title at a time. “Our site was originally built very quickly and very inexpensively [at $30,000], but it wasn’t very professional-looking,” Miller says. “We’re hoping to make it easier to navigate and better-looking. We’re creating a map to keep shoppers from getting lost.”

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