Customer-driven strategy Featured

5:22am EDT July 28, 2003
Cheryl&Co. didn't have a choice when it came to launching a Web site, says President and CEO Cheryl Krueger. Customers of the baked goods company were demanding it.

"First customers asked for a catalog, and then they wanted to be able to order online," Krueger says, "especially our corporate and business clients. If you don't offer all possible channels today, business won't grow."

Krueger says the Web site offers advantages both to customers and the company.

"If a customer wants to place an order at 2 a.m., she can," says Krueger. "The Web is open 24/7, and customers can order from all over the world."

Krueger says the catalog and Internet channels work well together.

"We find that our customers are mainly women, and they like to take the catalog to soccer games or dance lessons, circle the product they want, and then order online when they get home," she says.

The Internet also allows the company to test the marketability of new products in a cost-effective way.

"We can design a basket for sale one day and put it online the next," she says. "It's a great testing vehicle."

Internet sales are so brisk that Krueger expects them to overtake catalog sales in the next two years.

"Our Internet sales are our fastest growing segment," she says. "We project that they will represent a third of our sales by next year."

Keeping the site fresh and easy to use is a full-time job, says Brent Kelly, vice president of sales and marketing.

"The Cheryl&Co. Web site is an extension of our brand, and we want our customers and guests to have an enjoyable experience so they will visit again," Kelly says. "We want people to be aware of CherylandCo.com for shopping, and we do this through use of search engine marketing and partnerships with a select group of other sites, such as Hallmark.com and catalog city."

The company also uses e-mail to help customers who have requested gift ideas and reminders. Site statistics are reviewed to make adjustments to the buying experience, and the company's staff responds to customer e-mails and questions.

All this activity, and the company has yet to advertise its site anyplace other than on printed material such as its catalog and bags.

"We don't aggressively advertise the site," Krueger says. "Our partnership with Hallmark works well for us, and we print the site address on everything the customer receives, down to the individual wrapping on the cookies."

But Krueger is not ruling out running banner ads at other Web sites in the future.

"No one can provide hard data that banner ads work, so for now, we'll continue with what's working," she says. "But we are always considering new ways to expand how we reach our customers." How to reach: Cheryl&Co., (614) 891-8822 or www.cherylandco.com