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Pricefish.com, an online comparison-shopping and information-delivery tool, assists online shoppers with tools to easily find, compare, and purchase millions of products in different categories from a list of customer-rated merchants.

Challenge

As a relatively new player in the increasingly competitive comparison-shopping and online retail arena, pricefish.com needed a comprehensive and creative marketing campaign and strategy to...

  • Re-launch the pricefish.com brand.

  • Generate consumer awareness for the site.

  • Drive qualified traffic and leads to pricefish.com and maximize opportunities with visitors opting to receive more information.

Approach

The pricefish.com executive team was looking for a controlled launch and promotion in the metro-New York target market consisting of affluent shoppers who go holiday shopping online. The campaign needed to be carefully monitored for the duration of the promotion.

The plan was to market the site almost exclusively through Web-based efforts, supported by selective traditional media actions.

The results needed to be tracked on a real-time basis to determine effectiveness and to encompass both a creative approach and solid technology foundation with advanced reporting tools.

Solutions

Pricefish hired Millennium Communications, which created the "Pricefish.com 30/30 Holiday Haul Sweepstakes." The online and radio promotions directed users to visit pricefish.com and register to win 30 valuable prizes over 30 days in December—including popular items such as digital cameras and iPods.

Millennium's creative team developed the core message for the holiday campaign: "Before you shop online, Pricefish It First at Pricefish.com." This promotional strategy and online sweepstakes took place during December (between 12/1/2005 and 12/30/2005), reinforced by key media vehicles consisting of the following:

  • A radio campaign on New York's 1010 WINS-AM station (three spots on a rotational basis)

  • Online advertising banners on the 1010WINS.com Web site

  • Online ad promotions on various channels of pricefish.com (homepage, computing, jewelry, electronics, home & garden, apparel, photography, and toys & hobbies)

  • An online advertisement on the News12 Web site

  • A daily reminder email to registered visitors of pricefish.com

  • A "Tell-A-Friend" email option

Understanding the value of analysis and real-time results, each of the aforementioned promotional initiatives were tracked through a Web-based reporting tool. The reporting covered a variety of criteria to evaluate the effectiveness of the campaign, including source, number of entries, unique users, opt-in registrations, pageviews, time on site, loyalty, and more.

Results

With many ways to measure the effectiveness of a marketing campaign, return on investment is best determined through quantifiable results. Based on our reporting tool, the Pricefish.com 30/30 Holiday Haul Sweepstakes achieved all of the objectives for the promotional strategy, with the results exceeding all expectations:

  • 73,055 entries in the sweepstakes from 12,180 unique users

  • 30.7% adoption rate for the opt-in daily reminder email messages

  • 25.9% request for more information from pricefish.com in the future

  • 13.7% conversion rate for people receiving the Tell-A-Friend email messages to enter the sweepstakes

  • Approximately 39% of all referral traffic to pricefish.com came from the Pricefish.com 30/30 Holiday Haul promotion (according to the HitBox Web Analytics application)

  • Visitors spent an average of 25.7% more time on the site during the promotion than before it started

Millennium's strategy for the pricefish.com campaign and sweepstakes was a tremendous success, generating awareness among the target audience.

Lessons Learned

The Pricefish.com 30/30 Holiday Haul Sweepstakes served as both a successful marketing campaign and source of information for the Millennium Communications/Pricefish team.

Unique Approach vs. Conventional (Popular) Wisdom

Industry trends would have suggested that Millennium follow a dedicated paid search campaign to promote pricefish.com and the sweepstakes, similar to many others in both the comparison-shopping arena and overall online retail market.

Based on careful evaluation, however, Millennium decided to adopt a more unique and integrated approach, using a carefully selected combination of both online and offline mediums to drive traffic and registrations.

This somewhat unconventional approach relied on both radio and online efforts to reach the target audience, prompting them to act on the promotional call-to-action. All of the media used were monitored through distinct tracking URLs, allowing Millennium and Pricefish to determine effectiveness and ROI (such as landing pages for radio spots, banner ads on radio sites and pricefish.com, and limited paid search efforts by analyzing referring URLs).

Radio Still Drives Results

By using multiple outlets to drive traffic from various audience segments, Millennium and Pricefish were able to maximize each medium to the fullest. Through a unique vanity URL tracking enrollments from radio spot listeners, the promotion received 18,659 entries from people hearing about pricefish.com on the air.

Interestingly, that number constituted 25.5% of the total entries received for the life of the campaign—seemingly countering recent research about the tough road ahead for radio advertising.

Research Organizations Were on Target for Shoppers

While the value and relevance of industry research is often debated, the campaign with Millennium and Pricefish validated some key online shopping insight from organizations such as Shop.org.

Similar to those analyses, the pricefish.com marketing campaign showed that men were indeed "hunters and gatherers," heading straight to the promotions page. However, women visiting pricefish.com tended to fall into the "seeker" category, searching around the site after entering the promotion. This real-time example illustrates the importance of research in determining campaign parameters, creative elements, and overall strategy.

Bottom line: Conduct an analysis for each marketing effort and validate it with supporting research when possible.

Collaboration and Support Reinforce Success

Rather than the traditional client/agency approach, Millennium and Pricefish entered this relationship as reliable and trusting partners. Each brought valuable capabilities and knowledge to the table, while Pricefish supported the needs of Millennium to maximize results.

For example, Millennium was able to modify various pages of the pricefish.com site to implement marketing tactics, validate opportunities, and drive success. This flexibility and "partnership" in Millennium's "drive to Web" strategy was a win-win situation.

Defining Objectives and Expectations Guides Appropriate Actions

As mentioned, the results of the radio campaign exceeded expectations. The pricefish.com promotional strategy was a controlled marketing campaign, targeting the affluent New York market of online shoppers. With such factors as the NY Transit Strike during the holiday shopping season, reaching the target audience through careful media choices was a powerful and defining component of this campaign's success.

By defining the objectives and expectations, Millennium chose to incorporate a local, spot media approach on radio. The results illustrate that a mass-audience approach through national or regional markets isn't always the best option to reach a target segment and capture their loyalty or business.

The success of the Millennium campaign for pricefish.com was based on a strategic yet creative concept, supported by multiple media on a local scale that wouldn't be possible with just one form of marketing.

Smart Decisions Generate Marketing Success... and Occasional (Good) Surprises

Intelligent marketing can often take advantage of unpaid media such as public relations, blogs, and other sources of reinforcement. With the Pricefish.com 30/30 Holiday Haul Sweepstakes, this unique promotion gained awareness and support from promotional players like iWon... yielding bonus traffic and—more important—meaningful registered users.

Advertising legend David Ogilvy once said: "You now have to decide what 'image' you want for your brand. Image means personality. Products, like people, have personalities, and they can make or break them in the market place." In looking at the results, Millennium clearly defined the right image and personality for pricefish.com... but the best is yet to come.

What's Next?

Based on the promotion's success, Pricefish.com President Mark Dresner said, "We plan to have Millennium develop a series of seasonally inspired online promotions, supported by a mix of geo-targeted online as well as offline media.

"The goal of this spot marketing plan will be to recruit, convert, and expand our base of new site users while continuing the dialogue previously established with our current registered user base."

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Ian Scott Gertler (ian.gertler@symplegades.com) is a strategic marketing professional focusing on corporate strategy, public relations, marketing, Internet venues, and the mobile arena. He is president and CEO of Symplegades Inc.