From the November 1999 issue of Entrepreneur

Looking for that perfect holiday gift to add to your product line? How does a six-pack of Santa Sauce or Gefilte Fizz sound? These seasonal soda pop flavors have meant happy holidays for Providence, Rhode Island, OOP! Juice creators and husband-and-wife team David Riordan and Jennifer Neuguth, both 34.

The pair had already begun to sell novelty sodas at OOP!, their upscale craft gallery. Dissatisfied with the lines available, they thought of OOP! Juice while discussing business expansion opportunities. After unveiling the line at New York City's Fancy Food Show in 1997, Riordan and Neuguth realized they'd found a relatively untapped market in the beverage industry--gift beverages--and the orders have been rolling in ever since. The line has grown to eight standard flavors and 10 holiday flavors, including Turkey Slurpy (cranberry), Star Spangled Splash (watermelon) and Sweetheart Sizzle (raspberry).

Neuguth offers this advice for entrepreneurs interested in customizing their products for the holidays:

  • Start small. Try one or two holidays, and then add to them. Don't immediately launch a full holiday line.
  • Find manufacturers that are willing to work with you on smaller runs.
  • Don't overstock your inventory, or you'll be left with outdated merchandise after the holiday has passed.
  • Talk to your customers. Riordan and Neuguth always ask for customer feedback about existing products before they launch a new flavor.

Gwen Moran is president of Moran Marketing Associates, a public relations and marketing communications agency in Ocean, New Jersey. She is currently completing a marketing workbook titled Promote Your Business. E-mail her at moranmarketing@erols.com.

Why Do They Buy?

Get the inside scoop on your customers' buying habits.

Once upon a time, market research tools mainly consisted of surveys, phones and a pile of pencils. Now a hot new research company is breaking all the rules, using such high-tech data-gathering tools as video recorders, beepers and even disposable cameras.

E-Lab LLC is a Chicago-based research and design consultancy that's helping businesses understand not only why their customers buy, but also how, when and with whom. One method the firm uses is a process called "video ethnography." By videotaping subjects while they're in the process of buying, the E-Lab team can get a clearer picture--literally--of the process. E-Lab's evaluation team consists of the requisite anthropologists and social scientists, but it also includes actors, computer specialists and others who bring unique perspectives to the interpretation of data. According to E-Lab partner Rick Robinson, 41, all his employees must have a strong ability to interpret human behavior.

Try using some of E-Lab's philosophies on your own:

  • Don't assume that buying is universal and predictable. Try to gather as much information about the process of buying as you can--from when your customer puts a product on a grocery list or makes the decision to buy, to entering the store and making the purchase.
  • Use multiple vehicles to gather information about your customers' buying habits. Have your employees stay on the lookout for patterns in buying and record customer comments.
  • Try to understand how people are using the products that you sell or manufacture. This could lead to important new markets or opportunities.

Flash

Trading Places: Considering exhibiting in that trade show? It may be money well spent. According to a Center for Exhibition Industry Research study, 86 percent of show attendees were the decision-makers or influenced buying decisions, yet 85 percent hadn't been called on by a salesperson before the show.

Web Site

http://www.eretail.net

By Robert McGarvey

Want to keep tabs on the latest news in e-tailing--but also want a fast, time-efficient way to do it? Stop in at eRetail.net, where daily breaking news headlines fill the pages and provide the latest scoop on the doings of businesses from Starbucks to Barnes & Noble. Also archived are articles about the size of the e-commerce marketplace, consumer behavior and information on what the smartest e-tailers are doing. Just five minutes a day is enough to keep up-to-date on retail's cutting edge.

Contact Sources

E-Lab LLC, (312) 640-4488, http://www.elab.com

OOP!, (401) 751-9211, http://www.oopstuff.com