Nov 22, 2005
Jewish Gift Baskets Put Culture over Kitsch
By Jonathan Boorstein
With 22 years in direct marketing agencies, including ten running her own shop, DMTG, with her husband, Joshua, Joan Moritz thought she knew all there was to know about direct marketing.
Then Moritz bought The Challah Connection (http://www.challahconnection.com). The differences between what she was telling her agency clients and the reality of running an actual direct marketing company soon set in.
The Challah Connection was a direct marketer of challah, a Jewish bread traditionally served on the Sabbath and most holidays. The company provided its customer base with a fresh loaf once a week.
When Moritz took over three years ago, she added a line of gift baskets. The selection not only covered such Jewish holidays as Hanukah or Rosh Hashanah, but also what she calls lifecycle events; for example, Shiva or sympathy baskets for the traditional gifts of food for bereaved families.
"One glaring difference," Moritz said, "was the idea of the lifetime value of the customer."
She found that the concept of getting a certain response out of an existing customer with a mailing was not exactly applicable when it came to an Internet company.
"There’s definitely a core group of customers for the challahs that have been with the company for a long time. They’re loyal, but they only buy challah. I can’t cross sell them anything," she explained.
On the other hand, her company experienced a 30% growth over the last year with one-time purchases of gift baskets. Those customers usually find The Challah Connection with an Internet search. They come to buy, say, a sympathy basket, but are hard to convert to other purchases, even another gift basket.
Yet, everything she ever did learn about direct marketing was a help in creating and placing the pay-per-click ads on the Internet that created that growth. With most ads looking and reading the same, she had to use the best words not only to target her audience, but also to get them to click through.
"At $2.50 every click," Moritz said, "I don’t want clicks not in my target audience."
Although she doesn’t worry about click fraud, she is concerned about using up her daily budget of clicks. Search engine optimization is better because she pays up front, not as she goes along.
Potential customers also find out about The Challah Connection through articles in such publications as Jewish Woman and The New York Times.
Despite the odds, Moritz does a lot of e-mail marketing to her customers. "We do keep in touch once a month and in holiday seasons, once a week."
She has found that she gets a better open rate if the mailing is useful than if it is too "salesy." A recent mailing with a recipe for Thanksgiving turkey stuffing made with challah had a click through rate of more than 30%, about twice the usual. Moritz described the conversion rate as low: 1%.
Although she did a post card mailing, it didn’t pay out. Nevertheless, she would like to do a catalog as part of an integrated marketing campaign, along with print ads. She points out that when a prospect spends time with a package, he or she has invested something in the decision and will more likely order again, while over the Internet the prospect will just click through. There is less involvement.
"If I could do multichannel," she said, referring to a print catalog, "it might be a whole different story and the customers might be more long term."
Her current customer base of 5,000 is described as mixed. The Challah club constitutes a minor part of the business. The customers for the gift baskets are as likely to be male as female, though Moritz says that men tend to buy corporate gifts, while women buy house or family gifts. Customers are upscale, and in the case of homeowners, most are between 35 and 60.
This market niche is also interested in products that are cultural Jewish, but not necessarily kosher – that is, Jewish by religious law – though all the products in the gift baskets from the Westport, CT company are kosher. Moritz’s customers do include a great many synagogues.
"The kosher aspect is not as important," Moritz explained. She added that most Jewish catalogs offered products that were too straightforward and not marketed in an interesting way. Moritz also says that the goods in her baskets are of higher quality, are more upscale, than what is usually offered.
The contents of the baskets are selected from kosher bakeries in the New York metropolitan area, packaged, and then exported across the country, as well as Canada, Israel and the United Kingdom.
The "Oh Hanukkah" basket come in three sizes and prices, small to large, $60 to $175, and includes chocolate coins (gelt) and candlestick (menorah), cocoa and blue and white cookies, among other delicacies. In an ecumenical spirit, a Christmas basket is also offered for those whose Yuletide celebrations would not be complete without babka, rugelach and smoked salmon.
In addition, Moritz offers a "Bris Kit," a gift basket to send to a bris. Including a T-shirt emblazoned "Little Mensch" for the "honoree" and a "handful" of chocolate cigars, baskets come in small, medium and large.