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Friday, October 01, 2004
Adapting to the New Internet Media

Click here to see the article below as it appeared in the October edition of Health Supplement Retailer.

What do the majority of Internet shoppers and natural products store shoppers have in common? As you can see by the chart on page 19, they are the same people. These very people are the core natural products industry consumers. Are you putting yourself where they are spending hours a day focused on gathering information, viewing products and checking promotions?

Recently, The Natural Marketing Institute reported that 21st century natural product shoppers are almost twice as likely as the general population to use the Internet to make product selection decisions. Today’s natural product shoppers are now mature multi-channel buyers. Smart retailers are extending their stores to the Web to offer convenience, and put specials and informational resources at the customer’s fingertips. Smart manufacturers are providing product information, graphics and promotions for retailers’ Web sites.

What became evident after the Internet bust is that pure-play e-tailers lost out and brick and mortar stores won because they held their customers. There are several reasons for this. First, stores offer a personal touch with educated sales teams. Also, consumers have an existing shopping routine and lifestyle preference to buy in a store. Finally, stores provide satisfying sensory and visual experiences conducive to shopping.

Exploring Online Retailing

This doesn’t mean there is no benefit to getting your store online. When retailers extend their stores through Web sites, they are following their customers home. Customer service is available 24/7 and you’ve made shopping convenient to a very busy person by offering such items as credible health content, healthy recipes, health assessment tools, store specials, product information and selection, news, store events and information, and coupons.

Multi-channel retailing provides stores with an opportunity to sell more products to more people, creating multiple ways to satisfy store shoppers and reach more customers. Web sites make financial sense because stores stay in touch with the customers’ buying patterns. They help retailers acquire new customers (the value of a new customer over a lifetime is $5,000 to $10,000), save over print advertising, allow online advertising to drive sales and let retailers sell products online. Dean South, owner of VitaminLife in Redmond, Wash., said he finally added health content to after repeated requests from his customers. “They are looking for the same experience and information on the Web that they get in the store,” he said.

In addition, retailers can launch e-mail campaigns, which can be powerful promotional tools. A March 2004 study by Transact Media Group showed 57 percent of consumers will fill out a card to receive e-mail alerts when asked by a clerk at a local small business. Consumers receive regular e-mail from an average of 16 companies, but they prefer e-mail from local “traditional” businesses more than any other type.

There are several types of e-mail campaigns that consumers respond to weekly and monthly. Consider themed newsletters that focus on products being promoted in your store or educational news with links back to distributor, manufacturer or store PDFs of your monthly promotional flier. Or offer opt-in manufacturer marketing campaigns to promote new products or best sellers.

Nutrition Smart, a four-store chain in Florida, recently began using e-mail campaigns. “We are sending newsletters out to several thousand customers who want to hear from us,” said Debbie Swoboda-Mahew, the store’s marketing director. “The newsletter has a link to our Web site, brands the store and helps generate foot traffic. Our readership is great and I can see how many new people<

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