Q: Which products or services do you sell on your site?
A: We sell birthday gifts and birthday reminders. We're trying to focus in on birthdays because it's a tremendous niche. Our gifts range from historic papers from the day you were born, to flowers and balloons, all types of gourmet foods, personalized teddy bears, gag gifts, birthday-gram songs, and we're adding gifts all the time.
Q: Can you tell us a little about yourself and how you got started selling over the Internet?
A: I was on an airplane from New York to Chicago about five years ago and I had forgotten my sister's birthday for the third year in a row. I said to myself, "Why isn't there a place that can remind me about birthdays and has lots of great gift ideas?" I had been a marketing executive at American Express and Prodigy. I decided to put an 800 number and an Internet site together, with 1-800-BIRTHDAY and www.1800birthday.com. They work really well together.
Q: What percentage of your sales is from your Web site?
A: Our sales are growing, and our Web business is about 10% of our business, but we're expecting about 20% from the Web next year.
Q: Where do you see your business coming from?
A: We're consumer based, for the most part. We do have a corporate service program, but for the most part, it's individuals sending gifts to their family and friends.
Q:In which geographic areas, in particular, are you seeing strong sales?
A: It's pretty evenly distributed. It depends on who we do promotions with. We're truly a national company.
Q:What do you feel has helped make your site successful?
A: We don't use a lot of technical mumbo jumbo just because we can do it. Our site's very simple. You come in, you choose a gift, you figure out how to send the gift, we charge your credit card, you get out. We're not trying to do anything except make it easy for you to select and send a great gift, and that's it.
Q:What have you done on a regular basis to promote your site?
A: We're doing traditional marketing promoting 1-800-BIRTHDAY and 1800birthday.com together. The 1-800-BIRTHDAY television advertising pays for itself already through the "telesales" unit, so the Web traffic is essentially free.
Q: What are some of the downsides or pitfalls you've experienced?
A: The fool's gold of Internet e-commerce is that it costs you next to nothing to take an order online. Well, that's true, but you want to make sure that you're not missing out on opportunities, i.e., if you had spent a little bit more money and had some human contact, you'd be getting a significantly higher sales rate. People have questions, and customer service is really, really important.
Q: What has been your biggest surprise in doing business online?
A: I guess the fact that most people call us, telling that they're looking at our Web site. They seem like relatively savvy people, but they call us anyway.
Q: Where do you see your business one year from now?
A: I think we'll have a significantly upgraded Web site with a significantly deeper product selection. We're adding a great deal of selection in a way that people could deal with.
Q:What advice do you have for beginners who are interested in selling over the Web?
A: It's a lot harder than you think. Make sure you're prepared to give good service, or you're not going to be in business that long.
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