Buoyed by trend lines over the past several years, A&E Television Networks executives are confident that its A&E Shop electronic-commerce Web site will generate higher revenues in 2002.
A&E Shop has tallied 40 percent sales growth so far this year, following a 63 percent gain in 2000 and a 120 percent jump in 1999, said director of electronic commerce So Young Park. Double-digit growth is expected for the operation again in 2002, due in part to a redesign planned for the online store next year.
Park said the e-commerce site has become a profit center by offering more than 4,500 products online. The lion's share comes from sales of home videos and DVDs, with a smaller portion coming from collectibles and other miscellaneous products linked to special programming on A&E Network, The History Channel and The Biography Channel.
Most of the video product tends to be offered for sale on A&E's e-commerce site prior to hitting retail outlets, she said.
Pride & Prejudice
remains A&E's best-selling video, said Park. The movie's new DVD ranked among the site's top five sellers last week.
Other top sellers this year have included DVD versions of The History Channel's The History of Britain II
and Christianity. On History's own Web site, those titles plus the Founding Fathers
DVD and Ground Zero America, the channel's tribute to the World Trade Center, ranked among its top five over the past two weeks.
"Our customers are very theme-oriented, and they shop by theme or product type," explained vice president and general manager of AETN's consumer products division Steve Ronson, who oversees the e-commerce operation.
A&E Shop's conversion rate of 4 percent — representing the number of visitors who purchase a product there — is higher than the average cable e-commerce Web site, Ronson claimed.
The online store's latest successful theme relates to the patriotic fervor generated in the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. History's Web site has been doing brisk business in Peter Max posters since the network presented the American Classics
documentary miniseries over the Thanksgiving holiday, Park said.
Those posters — depicting the artist's renditions of the Statue of Liberty, the American flag and Uncle Sam — are priced from $70 to $175 (signed) to $800 (lithograph). Park noted that even the more expensive $800 versions are selling well.
Other best-seller themes relate to World War II and Pearl Harbor, she noted.
"Nautical themes also sell well," Park observed. She cited the Horatio Hornblower
DVD gift set — one of A&E Shop's top five last week — as well as clocks, compasses and ship-bottle desk ornaments inspired by A&E's movie franchise as popular items.
Most of the marketing muscle behind A&E Shop is internal, with a host of on-air promo spots on its owned networks and banners on its companion Web sites.
The operation recently ran an ad on A&E's Dec. 3 Live By Request: Elton John
special that pitched two of the singer's recent CDs; the spot closed with a billboard for Visa International, which Ronson noted is an ongoing Live By Request
sponsor. The two CDs cracked A&E Shop's top five sellers last week.
A&E Shop also taps the AETN subscriber lists with frequent, and often exclusive, e-mail offers. To further bolster Web sales, A&E Shop last week ran pop-up ads featuring video clips from History's Pearl Harbor
special. Lately, it's also been mixing in pop-up snowman banners to call attention to "great gift ideas." The latter also promises no shipping charge for orders of $75 and up.
For its part, The Biography Channel site is offering one free Biography
video with the purchase of five videos.
During the fourth quarter, the operation has also secured schedules on such Web sites as About.com and Yahoo, the executives said.
Moreover, from time to time, the e-commerce operation is plugged in Biography Magazine, in its direct-mail catalog and on the packaging for videos and other merchandise it sells, Ronson said.