WILD OATS SITE AIMS AT CUSTOMER RELATIONSHIPS

BROOMFIELD, Colo. -- Wild Oats Markets here signed an agreement last week with Persona, a Broomfield, Colo.-based provider of relationship marketing programs, to implement its p-CRM Internet marketing platform on the Wild Oats Web site. The platform is expected to be up and running by the end of this month."We really want to earn a position in the customer's mind of being the authority when it comes

BROOMFIELD, Colo. -- Wild Oats Markets here signed an agreement last week with Persona, a Broomfield, Colo.-based provider of relationship marketing programs, to implement its p-CRM Internet marketing platform on the Wild Oats Web site. The platform is expected to be up and running by the end of this month.

"We really want to earn a position in the customer's mind of being the authority when it comes to natural and organic [products], so we want our site to be meaningful to them," said Terry Maloy, Wild Oats' chief marketing officer.

Wild Oats' site will offer e-mail updates to registered users. Customers can log on to the site (www.wildoats.com) to access a customer profile registration system that allows them to select the kinds of newsletters and information they are interested in receiving by checking off categories and areas of interest. Users customize the information they will receive to make it meaningful and relevant to them, Maloy said.

Based on the consumer profile that the registered user sets, personalized information, promotions, recipes and new product information are sent in e-mail updates.

According to Maloy, this is relatively new approach for Wild Oats, and one the company anticipates will produce favorable results in terms of increased site usage and traffic. Maloy, however, declined to disclose any specific numbers about site usage and future expectations. He also declined to say how much the new CRM platform is costing Wild Oats.

Wild Oats did run an online coupon pilot recently, he noted, with favorable results similar to the redemption response rate of a direct mail piece. Such results are not always the case with Internet coupons, Maloy said. The company plans to distribute coupons via e-mail again to generate awareness of the new platform.

Wild Oats' new tack is a good approach for the natural foods company, which is less mass market and works off a narrower customer base, said Chuck Cerankosky, managing director, McDonald Investments, Cleveland.

"It's appropriate for them because while the market right now is a heck of a lot smaller than for conventional grocery and related products, it is growing and you want to identify who is spending the most in your store and who might be likely to significantly increase their expenditures. Wild Oats has had some erratic results in the last couple of years and it is important to identify which customers are going to be their best customers in terms of average ticket and the profitability of their mix."

Cerankosky said the new CRM platform is a big step forward to improve the company's marketing to reach their most loyal and interested customers directly. It also helps address some of Wild Oats' particular challenges, which Cerankosky cited as raising its visibility and doing a better job of serving customers, in addition to improving its marketing.