E-TAILERS PITCH OLD-FASHIONED INTERACTION

Byline: Rosemary Feitelberg

NEW YORK — Not wanting to get lost in cyberspace, e-commerce companies are using everything from cereal boxes to mailboxes to get their brands in consumers’ hands.
As the Internet gets more crowded with sites vying for female athletes, more of these firms are stepping off line to meet and greet their customers. Ironically, they find themselves weighing the benefits of special events, catalogs and mass mailings — tools the Web was supposed to replace. But e-tailers insist that physical evidence — whether it be an ad in a magazine or a handshake at a road race — is essential to make their sites more real to consumers.
Lucy.com executives will court potential customers at various athletic events this summer, Fogdog Sports will plug its brand on Kellogg’s cereal boxes this fall and Boo.com has launched a look book of must-have summer items.
Lucy.com is on the move to reach consumers through a variety of channels.
In September, Lucy.com will ship its first catalog to one million people and a holiday edition is being considered. With 800 styles offered on its site, Lucy.com’s catalog will give shoppers a chance to get a quick glimpse of some of the store’s offerings.
“We want to bring our store to life,” said Kate Delhagen, vice president of business development. “This is still a new concept for women and they can’t quite see it all.”
The catalog should help capture some non-Internet users, since half the women in the U.S. are not online, she said.
Lucy.com is also considering opening in-store concept shops or freestanding stores, but formal plans have not been made.
As the presenting sponsor of the Sanex World Tennis Association tour, Lucy.com will set up camp at various tournaments. Executives will also be turning up at other sports events, including next month’s Women’s Sports & Fitness half-marathon in New York. Cyclists riding bikes painted in Lucy.com’s signature colors will hand out orange slices and Lucy.com stickers at the finish line.
“We think we have a cool name and a cool brand, and we want to pass that along with a happy experience,” Delhagen said.
Boo.com is also working to get in front of customers.
“Off-line marketing has always been an integral part of our marketing, especially as dot-com companies try to build their brands in a crowded market,” said Robert Talbot, director of marketing for Boo.com. “The goal of off-line is to get people online, to make them comfortable with Boo and to become online shoppers.”
Boo.com handed out 25,000 look books and $30 coupons for first-time visitors to pedestrians in popular shopping areas in New York, Philadelphia, Chicago and Boston.
“It gives people more of an opportunity to touch and feel our product,” Talbot said. “It allows us to talk to people who aren’t traditional Internet customers.”
Womenoutdoors.com, a site that offers 250 brands and officially launches today, is using its current print advertising campaign as a way to connect with female consumers.
Created by Crispen Porter & Bogusky, a Miami agency, the ads picture women in a variety of athletic and nonathletic poses. After the ads broke, Womenoutdoors.com received “hundreds” of favorable letters from women, including some who suggested printing images from the ads on merchandise, said Michelle Theall, marketing director.
The company did just that and now online shoppers will receive a complimentary T-shirt inspired by the company’s advertising, as well as free shipping. This month Womenoutdoors.com is sending out postcards with $20 discounts for first-time users.
“There’s certainly a mix of online and off-line efforts to reach our customers,” she said. Another newcomer to the e-commerce scene is MSNBCSports.com, which last month signed a deal with eFANshop, a Dallas company that runs online stores for major Web sites. The site will offer licensed sports apparel and merchandise. A combination of off-line and online marketing is planned for next month’s launch.
In the next two months, FogDog Sports will unveil its online women’s store and will e-mail a few hundred thousand women who have given the company permission to contact them, said Tom Romary, vice president of marketing.
To reach mothers, who tend to purchase household groceries, FogDog has teamed up with Kellogg’s for “eet and earn,” a special offer that allows buyers to earn points for online purchases.
“It’s a great way to reach Moms, and it’s another way we’ve extended our marketing reach,” Romary said.
The company is also looking for tools to plug its new sponsorship of the Women’s Sports Foundation.
On another front, FogDog will sponsor “The FogDog,” the national championship for adventure racing, to be held in Malibu in November. This summer the company will host the Surf Cup, a surfing competition for boys and girls.
“E-mail is great, but nothing can beat communicating with athletes out where they’re having fun,” Romary said.