DAYTON, OH (FNS) -- Dorothy Lane Market here is selling its Killer Brownies, spreading information about its special- occasion and wedding cakes, and touting its artisan breads and fresh bagels -- all from a virtual bakery section inside the independent retailer's site on the World Wide Web.
The operator is using this high-tech tool as a fresh way to promote its famous signature items, which include fresh products from the meat department and elsewhere in the store.
Along with Killer Brownies and Heavenly Hams, the virtual market makes available DLM 50th Anniversary commemorative Coca-Cola bottles and stemware. So far, customers who have visited Dayton and returned home, and former residents who have moved away, have been the primary users of the web-order service, according to Patrick Arnold, web master for Dorothy Lane Market.
"They tasted the Killer Brownies and Heavenly Hams while here in Dayton, and now they want to have them at home. It took awhile to solve the security issues of ordering over the web, but that is done now," Arnold told SN.
But now the chain intends to extend the web site's everyday usefulness for fresh-food marketing by adding DLM's box lunches to the virtual assortment. Arnold said the service will speed customers' lunch orders to the deli department, and assure the sandwiches and other prepared foods are ready for pick up.
"The convenience of on-line ordering is tremendous," Arnold said. "Customers are not put on hold, there is always accurate and up-to-date information, and the access is 24 hours a day. In addition to sales, the web serves as a huge beneficial tool for communication. It is also another way for us to listen to our customers."
The site, dorothylane.com, offers accurate, consistent product information on a variety of offerings, on a 24-hour basis, Arnold said. Since its institution two years ago, visitors to the site have increased from 50 per week to more than 40,000 per week.
"It's the most cost-effective advertising we can do. It's very efficient, since most of our customers have web access at their home or work. For them it is the easiest and most convenient way to gather information."
The bakery section of the web site offers full descriptions of the special-occasion- and wedding-cake selections. Cake flavors, fillings and icing varieties are described in detail.
DLM's bakery marketers see it as a way to easily disseminate information on the bakery's capabilities before shoppers come into the store. Armed with information, customers are then able to quickly place their order.
Soon, web-site visitors will be offered a chance to design their own cake. Using a program that offers options for the size and shape of the cake, web shoppers can "draw" original designs and choose from a color palate provided on the site.
To create promotional excitement on the site, DLM has instituted a weekly drawing for free brownies. Arnold estimated that the site receives more than 2,500 entries, more than 90% coming from outside Ohio, each week.
"The weekly drawing is only costing us a few brownies and some shipping charges," he said. "It serves as a good promotion for Dorothy Lane Market. Our marketing area is fairly small, and we plan to open several new units; you never know where you might be opening up next."
The use of the web to promote weekly sale items has also greatly reduced printing costs for the two-unit operation, Arnold said, because customers print the information on their own computer printers. And, Arnold pointed out, the DLM recipe database is accessible for at-home printing as well, for customers who may remember seeing a recipe in-store and afterwards, at home, do not have the time to come back to the store to find it again.