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Yahoo! Analyzes Results of New Idea: Old-Fashioned 'Sale Days'

By Published on .

NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- As they review the results of a mid-March online marketing experiment, Yahoo! officials, analysts and participating merchants believe
72-hour sale effort involved online and offline promotion campaign, including cardboard street signs.
they have found an e-commerce-boosting technique that works: old-fashioned retail "Sale Days."

From March 13-15, Yahoo! and more than 1,000 Web merchants on Yahoo! Shopping participated in what the online giant called the "Biggest Sale in Internet History."

Gross sales surge
After shifting through the traffic and sales numbers of the 72-hour event, various parties to the effort said it drove a 25% surge in gross merchandise sales over the three days, with more than four dozen online merchants reporting that sales increased nearly 500% from the previous week.

Participating online merchants included Travelocity, British Airways, Delta Air Lines, Hertz, Gap and Banana Republic, J.C. Penney, Compaq Computer Corp., Radio Shack and Hewlett Packard Co.

Designed to drive online consumers to Yahoo! Shopping's cyber-department store of affiliated merchants, the event was promoted with a marketing and advertising campaign that cost just short of $1 million.

Yahoo!'s different approach
"We've seen various merchants having their own sales,

Online promotions including screens on which the word "Sale" blurred and unblurred.
promoting them through e-mail marketing, banner ads, promotions on their home pages offering free shipping, but what Yahoo! has done is pull together all of them and promote them within Yahoo! Shopping," said Lisa Strand, director and chief analyst for Internet market researcher NetRatings.

"No one's really done that before in the online space where it's been across many merchants," she said.

The "Biggest Sale" campaign used standard online promotional techniques as well as offline methods of the kind most frequently associated with local retail outlet seasonal sales. Along with radio and print ads in cities such as Philadelphia and Baltimore, the offline efforts included festooning downtown parking meters in cities such as Houston and Austin with cardboard "Biggest Sale in Internet History" signs. Meanwhile, flocks of pedestrian hawkers wearing large "Sale" tags were deployed in the same cities.

Sidewalk guerilla tactics
In part, the sidewalk guerilla techniques sought to motivate workers to return to their offices to use their high-speed desk connections to

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log onto the URL trumpeted in all marketing materials: http://bigsale.yahoo.com.

Yahoo!'s agency, Havas Advertising's Black Rocket, San Francisco, handled print and radio portions of the campaign in selected markets. Travelocity purchased radio air time in Philadelphia, Baltimore and Miami. The rest of the campaign work came out of Yahoo!'s in-house department, including print ads that ran in USA Today and The San Francisco Chronical

A billion-plus impressions
Yahoo! said the the three-day event generated more than a billion impressions across the entire Yahoo! network.

"We wanted to figure out how to drive revenue and traffic for our partners at a generally slower time [for retail]," said Jennifer Dulski, director of commerce marketing for Yahoo!

More than 1,000 of Yahoo! Shopping's 10,000 stores participated in the Biggest Sale; 55 of those indicated they experienced a nearly 500% sales increase over the prior week. "They found that sales were in the same range as the daily sales they do in the holiday season," Ms. Dulski said.

Retailers, travel service providers and several of Yahoo!'s pay services, such as Yahoo! Mail Extra Storage, logged heavy traffic. For example, British Airways and Delta reported ticket sales rose an average of 135% during the three-day period. Hewlett-Packard, J.C. Penney, Sears and National Leisure Group each paid for prominent promotional space on Yahoo! Shopping.

H-P: 380% sales increase
As a result at Hewlett-Packard's e-commerce site, traffic tripled and sales increased 380% over the prior week, said Susan Boyce, chief marketing officer of hpshopping.com.

Jim Marsicano, Travelocity.com's executive vice president of sales and services, said the online travel services company was "extremely pleased" by the surge in traffic and ticket sales generated by the three-day event.

Netratings' Ms. Strand also pointed out that even people who did not make online purchases during the event were made more aware of which merchants have online sales operations.

Copycat affiliate promotions
Also notable, she said, was that some Yahoo! partner merchants -- J.C. Penny, for example -- copied and hyped the same three-day sales deals on their own sites.

As for the competition, Ms. Strand said that "AOL and MSN play in a very similar space. They'll probably be looking at how effective it was, both for their own portals and their shopping networks,"

Yahoo! indicated it is already planning to do another "Biggest Sale"-type event later this year.

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