1997. Ten years ago. It seems like only yesterday. Seinfeld was still producing new episodes. The U.S. dollar was actually stronger than the euro. (Wait, what’s a euro? It wasn’t even invented yet). Oh, and catalogers could actually make marketing decisions with—get this—raw response data.
Ah, the good ol’ days. Well, as Thomas Wolfe wrote, “You can’t go home again.” It’s 2007 now. Seinfeld plays in syndication six times a night. The U.S. dollar buys you a piece of gum in France. And, of course, catalogers aren’t “catalogers” anymore—they’re “multichannel retailers.” And few marketing decisions, if any, are made exclusively from a review of raw response data.
We all know the culprit—it’s our inability to collect catalog keycodes on our e-commerce sites. Customers who were partially—or even fully—encouraged to place a Web order after, or during, a review of our catalog simply won’t cough up the information, no matter what reasonable incentive or prompting we provide.
A matchback process begins to answer the question that is left generally unresolved. But sometimes, as is the case when an order can reasonably be allocated to more than one contact or channel, it can raise more questions than it answers. (Don’t even get me started on the term “fractional allocation”—otherwise, this “tip” may become a full-blown article.)
So I’ve highlighted what seems to be a universal dilemma—and here are some concrete tips for how to ease your marketing manager’s pain:
1. Just because it is difficult to collect keycode information online, it does not mean you should give up collecting keycodes when orders come in via phone, mail or fax—To the contrary, this data is like the supply of inexpensively extracted, light sweet crude oil. It’s the database marketing equivalent to a cheap, non-renewable natural resource. If you have it, keep on pumping it—and develop nuclear weapons to protect your access to it, if you must.
2. Convince your customers to provide the data you need without asking for a keycode at all—How, you ask? Include a unique SKU prefix to each product displayed in each catalog you deliver. “My systems,” you retort, “don’t make this an easy lock-and-load process, and my layout and design team couldn’t possibly make such across-the-board changes to each and every catalog.”
Well, for starters, it might be time for you to look at more robust inventory management systems. In response to the creative department nay saying, challenge each associate to research how other catalogers are implementing such procedures. It won’t be too long before they’ve built an even better mousetrap that answers a couple more questions the Executive Team hadn’t even thought to ask.
3. Make your e-commerce engine perform the heavy lifting—Let’s talk about worst-case scenarios for a moment. Actually, what I’m about to predict is a reality for many companies who began as internet pure-plays and of late, have ventured into the catalog / print advertising domain.
Ninety percent—no, let’s be bold and go the full 100%—of your company’s orders come in via the Web without keycodes, other than a generic WEB code. “The horror, the horror!” If your marketing manager utters this phrase from her heart of darkness, allay her fears by reminding her of where “next generation” e-commerce platforms are heading.
Full contact histories will be accessible in the background—much like finder files are utilized today in some order entry systems. E-mails, catalog mailings, even customer service representative contacts, will all be there. The moment a customer enters his or her billing and shipping address information and confirms the order, an instantaneous matchback will occur.
If the system is really snazzy, it may even standardize the address entered by the customer, allowing for higher match rates—a brave new world, I know. The end result, of course, is a calm, confident and informed marketing manager. If your e-commerce systems developer is not already beta testing these functions, it might be time for you to look for a new e-commerce engine.
Yes, indeed—the times, they are a-changin’. Who knows? Maybe in 2017 Seinfeld will be a virtual world gaming option; the dollar will no longer be fiat currency having been replaced by a new precious metals standard based on uranium; and multichannel retailers will extract campaign results biometrically.
<em>Todd J. Miller is director of marketing and database services for San Rafael, CA-based catalog consultancy Lenser.</em>