WILD OATS SET TO ADD HOME SHOPPING VIA WEB SITE

BOULDER, Colo. -- Wild Oats Community Markets here will add on-line home shopping to its consumer Web site this fall, with a service featuring approximately 2,000 products, including supplements, vitamins and herbs.The 59-store natural-food retailer currently accepts home-shopping orders via phone and fax. Based on customer response to the on-line ordering method, Wild Oats plans to integrate Web-based

BOULDER, Colo. -- Wild Oats Community Markets here will add on-line home shopping to its consumer Web site this fall, with a service featuring approximately 2,000 products, including supplements, vitamins and herbs.

The 59-store natural-food retailer currently accepts home-shopping orders via phone and fax. Based on customer response to the on-line ordering method, Wild Oats plans to integrate Web-based ordering with its loyalty-program database. This would allow the retailer's Internet customers who have frequent-shopper cards to eventually take advantage of targeted promotions on-line.

"We will offer a full line of Wild Oats brand vitamins, supplements, herbs and other organic items like marmalades, cereals and nuts, as well as gift baskets and merchandise like hats and shirts," said Jay Robinson, director of electronic marketing for Wild Oats. "Our ambition is to integrate the new on-line shopping component with our robust frequent-shopper program."

Customers will be able to order groceries through the retailer's Web site, www.wildoats.com, in September. As customers surf the site to learn about different items, minerals and vitamins, they will be asked if they want to learn more or purchase the item.

If they choose the purchase option, customers will be hotlinked to a separate Web page, shop.wildoats.com, "where they are told if the item is in stock, on back order, and what shipping options are available," Robinson explained. "We see this service as our 60th store because it adds another level of convenience to customers."

Wild Oats' on-line shopping is an extension of an existing home-delivery service currently available through telephone and fax. "Customers dial into a toll free '800' number to order items, pay with a credit card, and we ship the order," Robinson said. "Our telephone service will be integrated onto the same network as our on-line ordering program," he added. "Now as orders come in via phone, they will be instantly entered into the computer, and transmitted to our fulfillment center as if they were ordered electronically."

Wild Oats is working with a third-party company that fills orders from a separate fulfillment center, then delivers orders to customers. There is a delivery charge, which Robinson said was competitive with other services' fees.

Robinson predicted that the retailer could make a profit from the home-shopping service within six months, and he predicted that an average order will be in the $20 range.

"It should take a short time to turn a profit," he said. "There is tremendous potential to learn what products and promotions motivate people. And it is effortless to click a button and change on-line signage by day, week or month, and evaluate in minutes the strength of a promotion."

Wild Oats is already trying to motivate its frequent shoppers to check promotions and store specials on-line, by communicating with them via e-mail. However, the retailer's plans to integrate its loyalty program with its home-shopping service will eventually reward cardholders for buying products on-line.

"We want to offer exclusive promotions to our frequent shoppers," Robinson said. "For example, customers could see a television broadcast or report about a specific vitamin or herb, which may prompt some of our cardholders to research the drug through our Web site. We can send e-mail to those customers telling them that if they order through our Web site, they can save an additional 20%."

Though there is not a firm time-frame, Robinson said, Wild Oats could integrate its frequent-shopper database within a month of launching its on-line ordering service.

The e-commerce infrastructure of Wild Oats site is from Pandesic LLC, Sunnyvale, Calif.