Press Releases for Carolina Rustica
Our business is based not only on high-quality iron and wood furniture, but also on outstanding customer service. Our business would not exist if we did not have both in equal measure.
Postage: Some Package Deal
RedRoller trims shipping costs
By Rachael King
If you suspect you're paying too much in shipping costs, RedRoller offers a quick way to find out. The company's Web site allows you to compare shipping prices from a variety of carriers including FedEx, DHL, and the U.S. Postal Service. (Quotes from UPS are not yet available.)
William Van Wyck, founder and CEO of RedRoller, based in Norwalk, Ct., says his service can cut shipping costs by 25% to 50% on the items he ships after using RedRoller. It has traditionally been difficult to compare costs among carriers because of variables in a parcel's size and weight and the different options offered by each service.
Red Roller users who select a shipper get e-mail notification when packages are delivered, maps of drop-off locations, and integration with eBay. They can also print shipping labels on plain paper, schedule pickups, and import data from customer address books.
Richard Sexton, who owns Carolina Rustica, a 10-person, $2.5 million furniture, lighting, and home accents store in Concord, N.C., says he saves about 10% to 15% on the items he ships with RedRoller. When a customer recently complained that a $40 decorative toilet tissue holder was late, Sexton offered to ship it second-day delivery. UPS, his usual carrier, charged $28, but on RedRoller he saw that DHL charged only $8. Says Sexton: "Any tool like RedRoller that saves you any margin is a good thing."
New site search features help Carolina Rustica boost sales by 30%, it says
A new site search tool at Carolina Rustica, an online retailer of wrought iron furniture and other home furnishings, has helped to increase sales by 30% year-over-year during the past six months while also boosting traffic from natural web search, president Richard Sexton tells InternetRetailer.com.
The new site search has led to an exponential increase in the usability of our site in terms of navigation, getting relevant results, and cross-indexing, Sexton says. It provides a richer shopping experience and lets shoppers see the whole spectrum of products without being consigned to navigational categories.
Carolina Rustica's former site search tool, a basic tool included in its shopping cart software, was not very useful, Sexton says. But the new tool, from SLI Systems Inc., improves the site's search and navigation the more shoppers use it, by using data based on prior searches to serve up more pertinent results, he adds. It also is designed to recognized misspelled words used as search terms and it allows users to sort results.
The complete site search application incorporates SLI 's Learning Search, which uses an analytics engine to improve search results based on past activity, and Site Champion software, which is designed to improve rankings in natural web search by recording site search terms on a separate site indexed by web search engines.
Site Champion was really important in our decision to choose SLI, Sexton says. It's probably increased by 10-20% the traffic received through natural web search.
The 30% increase in sales, he adds, was also helped by ongoing in-house efforts to optimize the web site for natural search, increased spending on pay-per-click search, an expanded product line and increasing sales through Amazon.com and Shop.com. Carolina Rustica expects to do about $3.4 million in sales this year, up from $2.5 million last year, Sexton says.
Savvy Search Boosts Sales
By Lena West
August 15, 2007
When it comes to e-commerce, sales rule the roost. But all too often customers don't find what they need and simply decide to look elsewhere before closing the deal. Dwindling conversions are an epidemic for online retailers but a few software companies are providing an antidote through intelligent e-commerce search.
Basic e-commerce search refers to the search functionality on an online retailer's Web site that is used to find a particular product. For example, if a search is conducted on a retailer's web site, a results page is delivered with links to products that match the search as closely as possible. Intelligent e-commerce search, however, is a bit different.
Intelligent e-commerce search software helps site owners understand what buyers are searching for but also delivers results that highlight the most popular products from previous searches. Providing relevant search results is critical; otherwise site owners risk losing a sale and a potential loyal customer. If the search results are relevant, the customer is more likely to make a purchase, thereby increasing sales and conversion rates.
Is Your Site Search Outdated?
In the not-so-distant past, it was enough for site owners to have a site map and simple keyword-based search. At best, search functionality would be built into the web site's infrastructure but, more often than not, it was provided by plug-ins offered by popular search engines.
If a customer needed to purchase a new kitchen appliance and they searched for "range," they were only shown items that had the word "range" in the product name or description. Products with words like "oven" or "stove" in the product name or description, although clearly relevant, were not shown — much to the detriment of online sales.
Thankfully for retailers, there has been a sea change in the world of search and in the forefront is California-based SLI Systems. With their product, Learning Search, there is no software to install, the product is hosted on SLI's servers and works as well with sites that have a few hundred searches as it does with sites that have thousands. Customized development is included, the entire implementation process takes less than three weeks from start to finish and monthly fees are proportional to the traffic and searches performed on the site.
SLI's CEO, Dr. Shaun Ryan, says that most retailers are hooked after the 30-day trial. "We have various algorithms to determine whether clicks are recent or old," he says, "and we can also tell if a customer goes back to the search page and clicks or searches for something that they really want and end up buying."
Learning Search automatically places popular items at the top of search results and the software can also be leveraged for search engine optimization. It continually "learns" from past site search activity by tracking visitors' aggregate search queries and click-throughs, and uses that data to deliver results based on popularity. Whether companies use their Web site to sell products, provide support or information, Learning Search returns the most relevant search results, which helps attract and retain customers and ultimately increases sales.
Giving SLI a run for their money is Toronto-based Nextopia. Sanjay Arora, company president, is quick to point out that his company competes on price with their solution, eComm|Search, with an investment of just $1,000 a year. Although, Nextopia began as a search-engine development company, in the past few years it recognized a niche in retail e-commerce search and decided to pursue it.
eComm Search is not a hosted solution, it is XML-based, and therefore hosted on the site owners' server. The software is a semi-intelligence-based search solution, meaning it relies on a mix of keywords, the strategic use of synonyms and sales data. Arora says their product works best with, "sites that are doing 200-50,000 searches per day."
The Proof is in the Results
Richard Sexton, president of Carolina Rustica, a multi-channel retailer of high-end furniture, lighting and home accents, says he looked at other intelligent search providers including Mercado and Celebros and while he has nothing bad to say about those companies, SLI did a better job of addressing what his company specifically needed.
"Our search results were generated by our shopping cart platform so we only got out what we put in," says Sexton. "Also, because search queries are memory intensive, if we had multiple customers searching on the site, it would slow the site down considerably. It was miserable and I knew something had to be done."
Reports are automatically e-mailed everyday in graphical format and Sexton can also see the best-selling products and top-visited URLs, features he finds especially useful.
Carolina Rustica's conversions increased by .25 to .50 percent, inquiry calls are up and they have doubled their customer service staff as a result. Sexton pegs the overall net sales increase by as much as 30 percent.
Ken Crites, marketing director for consumer direct channels at Vermont-based Green Mountain Coffee, regrets that he didn't start using SLI's Learning Search sooner.
"We learned from industry studies that a customer who uses your site search is 2.7 times more likely to purchase. And, we want people to buy," said Crites. "The search that was included in Microsoft Commerce wasn't giving us the information we needed - and the search functionality wasn't intelligent search. We want to invest in the areas of our site that increase sales and site search is a no-brainer for increasing sales."
Green Mountain Coffee's overall site sales have increased about 60 percent over the past two years — most of which they attributable to implementing intelligent search — and online conversions have increased for the retailer as well.
The key for proactive online retailers lies not in simply tacking-on search capability but rather in increasing the Web site's value to the customer by leveraging intelligent search. Or, in the words of Crites, "Bad search is a massive blown opportunity."
Lena L. West is the CEO of xynoMedia Technology. xynoMedia helps small businesses that are sick and tired of technology being a pain in the assets. She can be reached at xynoMedia.
Behind the curtain--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
SPACE INVADERS: Dustin Smith and Gina DeFelice (above) enjoy each other's company, while Marissa LaVigne (below) prefers to live alone.
Location: Anderson Street, Beacon Hill.
Size: 350-square-foot studio.
Rent: $1100 per month.
Dwellers: Marissa LaVigne, 27, team leader in new accounts at J.P. Morgan; two cats, Cleo and Maui.
While Smith and DeFelice have the luxury of a spacious apartment a bit outside town, LaVigne sacrifices space to live in one of the most desirable (and exclusive) neighborhoods in Boston. Beacon Hill, with its narrow streets, stately brick houses, cobblestones, and gas street lamps, epitomizes Old Boston (not to mention old money). It’s a cozy quarter with an intimate olde-towne air, and for the most part, it’s a student-free zone. Charles Street, with its antique shops and restaurants, boutiques and bistros, exudes city romance. But what about the stereotype that all the pearl-necked and loafer-shod residents have more cash than they know what to do with? "No, no," jokes LaVigne, "people are just paying a lot for rent and eating Ramen all the time." (Take a moment and picture John Kerry, famed Beacon Hill resident, slurping up some noodles.)
"I love the location," says LaVigne. "I have a 10-minute walk to work. And everything is right here." Not only are restaurants and stores within shouting distance, but Cambridge is a quick shot across the river, and a short stroll leads you to the heart of downtown. "The only thing that’s far away," LaVigne explains, "is BC," where she’s pursuing her MBA. "It takes about an hour and 15 minutes to get over to Chestnut Hill on the T."
Walking up the hill toward LaVigne’s place, you almost feel like you’ve left the city — and perhaps even the century — and arrived in some new realm of urban life and time. This is what you pay for, perhaps. Because you’re certainly not getting a lot of space. LaVigne’s studio, a single room on the second floor of an old brick townhouse, is small. You could stand in the doorway and spit to the opposite wall. But LaVigne has set it up in such a way that there are obvious delineations among kitchen, living room, and bedroom.
A tall, round table from Carolina Rustica, a North Carolina–based furniture store that specializes in wood and iron, sits by the kitchen nook, with two high chairs from Crate & Barrel. LaVigne’s bed is tucked around the corner, creating a private sleeping area. And she’s placed a large futon from Dream On Futon by her bed, which provides a physical divide between public and private space. A large trapezoidal bureau with woven-bamboo drawers from Pier 1 Imports holds her television, as well as vases she picked up on a trip to Russia and a pitcher she got in Italy.
"I’d say that’s my decorating strategy," says LaVigne. "Sort of international. I do a lot of traveling, and I like to bring things back from the places I go."
But does she ever feel cramped in the space? "To be honest, I don’t spend a lot of time here," she says. "It’d be nice to be able to have people over for dinner every once in a while," but she opts for location over space, and feels lucky to have found this studio. "A bunch of the studios I saw around here were just these rectangles with no division at all between the kitchen and the rest of the space. It just wasn’t comfortable to me. I like this place." And with one-bedroom apartments in Beacon Hill running around $1600 per month, hers is comparatively reasonable.
LaVigne wasn’t sure at first about living alone. She’d lived in Central Square, the symphony neighborhood, and another place in Beacon Hill, all with roommates. "It’s definitely nice to have people around to talk to, and I was nervous that I’d miss that," she says. "But it’s so much easier living alone."
Location: Josephine Avenue, Ball Square, Somerville.
Size: Four bedrooms; one study; kitchen; dining room; living room; front and back porches; one and a half bathrooms.
Rent: $2400 per month.
Dwellers: Naseem Khuri, 25, associate at Conflict Management Group at Harvard, executive coordinator of the American Diaspora Alliance, and aspiring singer-songwriter; John Stalker, 29, software engineer at the Broad Institute at MIT; Dennis McDaniels, 25, bartender at Sweetwater Café, aspiring philosopher; Nina Freeman, 24, aspiring actress, student at San Francisco’s American Conservatory Theater; Ron Hanlon, 25, site manager and tent assembler at A Tent for Rent.
Solo living has its perks. You don’t have to worry about anyone gulping your milk, pilfering your pudding, or snacking on your Tostitos. There’s no shower-schedule negotiation, and no need to play your Springsteen records at a respectful volume. Living alone, you’re the only one to blame if the dishes pile up in the sink or if the toilet doesn’t get cleaned.
But sharing a place with a bunch of people has its own set of advantages. Whether you move in with randoms or old friends, a certain level of intimacy (though not necessarily friendship) inevitably sprouts between roommates. House dynamics — however trying — can rival The Real World for entertainment. And there’s an elevated level of energy in a place shared by more than three people; each individual brings his or her own bustling life in and out of the place, which ends up a hodgepodge of personalities and furnishings, where the only stylistic rhyme or reason is that there isn’t any.
Such is the case on the second and third floors of an old Ball Square house occupied by five people. At the moment, the apartment’s electricity is being updated; gaping holes, exposed wires, and lots of dust and spackle define the space right now. Furniture has been piled into the center of rooms and covered with plastic sheets to make room for electricians and carpenters. Amidst the shambles, it’s apparent that this place is a jumble of hand-me-downs and cheap finds.
In the living room, a pair of televisions sit side by side. One of the two must be busted, right? "No," says Stalker, "they both work. It’s set up for the next couple months: Red Sox and Patriots."
"See this couch?" says Khuri, lifting up a tarp to reveal a well-worn sofa. "We grabbed this from my sister’s boyfriend’s ex-wife."
"And that big table over there," adds Stalker, pointing to the antique with thick carved legs, "was left over from the people who lived here before. Sometimes it feels like our whole place is hand-me-downs," he says. "Not the IKEA chair, though."
Khuri lifts a print of an old man with a banjo off the floor in the pantry. "My sisters gave me this. They got it at Building 19."
Both Stalker and Khuri cite the apartment’s location as one of its best features. "It’s a 10-minute walk to Davis Square and 13 minutes to Porter," says Stalker. "And you’ve got to remember Sound Bites," says Khuri, talking about why he loves the place he lives. "Best breakfast around." He also mentions the importance of porches and the joy of watching the cars on his street: an old Ford Mustang, a couple of vintage Cadillacs, and "a real old Duster. Our street is paved with class."
Inside, the whole apartment has a rickety summer-house feel to it; the stairs squeak, the banister wobbles, "and this wall just fell off the other day," says Stalker, pointing to a waist-high spot where the dry wall came off to reveal slats of wood underneath. "But that’s just because of the construction."
Home & Living Home & Decor
Wrought iron furniture has become a popular choice for dining room sets to bedroom sets. The classic yet innovative look of the wrought iron design brings about a new trend that is sweeping the country.
At Carolina Rustica, you can find just about style of wrought iron furniture for all of the rooms in your home. From the Victorian style to a more feng shui Asian style, the wrought iron pieces found at Carolina Rustica can adapt to any lifestyle and look.
Carolina Rustica carries a complete line of smaller iron accent items like pot racks, towel bars, shelf brackets, and more. Carolina best in U.S. manufacturing. The site is so easy to navigate and visitors can shop by a specific manufacturer, by room, or even by specific style.
When you are shopping for furniture, you want to make sure that you're buying a top quality product that looks and feels as good as the pictures and descriptions. That's what Carolina Rustica prides themselves upon. They have formed partnerships with the premier manufacturers of wrought iron furniture such as Charleston Forge (specializing in bakers racks, seating and tables), Elliott's Designs (iron beds), and Hubbardton Forge (iron lighting). All three of these companies have 30 years of quality service to their name and grown in popularity due to their one of a kind hand-crafted iron furnishings.
For a modern look that also has touches of classic style solid wood, the Apex Coffee Table from Charleston Forge combines both the iron and wood for a contemporary masterpiece. If you are a fan of modern sculptures and decorative crystal vases, place those precious items on top of this sleek, eye-catcher for a clean, yet feng shui open spaced look.
Lamps have never looked more like works of art than with the Hubbardton Forge models. The Curved Taper Table Lamp has a rectangular base and a edgy, slender base with two beautifully curved tapers. For a contemporary bedroom that doesn't mind breaking the rules, this beauty shines with innovative excellence.
To complete a bedroom set, Elliott's Designs has striking sleigh beds that has a classic draped iron look with different emblems that decorate the head and foot boards. The Alexius Complete Bed has tall and bold wrought iron ends that really accentuate the beauty of any linens that adorn it. The curved ends of the head and foot boards give an added decadence to an already exquisite and luxurious design.
For the kitchen, Clearance items and gift certificates are available. Shop for all your housing needs in any easy to find, easy to navigate fashion. Sizing, color charts and detailed information are available online. For more information, visit www.carolinarustica.com.