Business Remains Hot at Ice.com

By James Maguire | Posted June 01, 2005

Jewelry is not normally thought of as an impulse purchase, but Ice.com is working to change that — with considerable success.

"We call ourselves an online jewelry store, but technically what we are is a candy store for women," says Ice CEO Shmuel Gniwisch. The site makes jewelry purchases relatively painless by offering items as low as $45, with plenty of rings and earrings in the $150 range.

To make a purchase decision still easier, Ice allows shoppers to pay in installments, up to five payments. "It's all about marketing to them at a price point that they can afford today," Gniwisch notes.

Growing the site's business is about building trust, he says. Shoppers first make a purchase for a lower amount, then come back later willing to spend more. When Ice launched in 1999, its average sale was $75; it is now $200, he says.

To boost sales, Ice maintains a staff of 20 skilled phone advisors — "not just people who answer the phone from India," Gniwisch says. The phone reps are typically women who have been in the jewelry business for at least three-to-four years.

"Once you build the relationship, you become that corner jeweler on the Internet," he says. The privately held Ice last disclosed its revenue in 2002, when it claimed $15 million in sales.

Paid Search Tricks
One of the site's main tools for growth has been strategic use of paid search. But Gniwisch warns that the search buys are often not properly handled.

"Throw your money into search marketing, and you're going to lose your money," he says. "Throw your money into analyzing search marketing, and you'll do better."

Using Web analytics tools, Ice carefully analyzes all of its keyword buys. To do so, the site invested in high-end analytics software made by Visual Sciences.


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Ice.com relies on heavy mass e-mailing, low prices, payment plans and search engine keyword analysis to drive sales.

Equally important, Ice ensures that its paid links direct shoppers to the most advantageous page. Gniwisch is amazed that some merchants still use paid search links to send shoppers to their home page — that's an utter waste, he notes.

"When someone's in a search engine and they search for 'platinum, diamond, earring,' they don't want to land on a page that has all kinds of earrings," he says.

For every search term that Ice buys, it directs shoppers to a different, highly targeted page. After Ice learned this technique of offering a specific URL, "We doubled our conversions, and halved our expenditures," he says.

In fact, for some of its paid search terms, Ice creates a special page just for that keyword buy. "It might have specific product in the center splash," Gniwisch says.

Fearless E-Mailing
Ice believes in heavy use of e-mail marketing, sending as many as two-to-three mass mailings a week — an amount that many sites would hesitate to send. "I think we're one of the largest direct e-mail companies out there," Gniwisch says.

Ice keeps its e-mail offers fresh by varying the concepts for each mailing. So all the e-mails are sent to the site's full list, but they target different consumer segments.

At one time Gniwisch was concerned that two-to-three mailings a week might be too much. "But we didn't see a drop in our subscribes, so we figured, why not?"

Adapted from ECommerce-Guide.com, part of Internet.com's Small Business Channel.

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