Integrate for Improved Prospecting

So many media, so little time (and money): That seems to be the mantra of multichannel marketers. In deciding which media will provide the greatest return on investment, “for traditional direct marketers, catalogs and the Internet continue to play the largest role for prospecting of new customers and retaining existing ones,” says Chris Montana, senior vice president of Hackensack, NJ-based list services firm Mokrynskidirect.

Mailers’ house files and prospect lists, which were once 100% catalog buyers, now consist of catalog buyers who purchase from the catalog, catalog buyers who purchase from the Web, buyers who have come through online affiliates, and buyers who were acquired through search engine optimization and paid banner placements. Almost 35% of the buyers on an average “catalog” list actually made their purchase via the Internet, according to Montana. And although the majority of these buyers were driven by the catalog, a growing percentage is coming from affiliates and paid and organic search.

As a result, more list owners are offering source and channel as Internet buyers at postal address as selects. “We have begun to see a trend where medium and larger multichannel mailers now segment and select Internet buyers at postal address as a unique select and catalog buyers as another to better track the lifetime values and map out marketing strategies,” Montana says. “The ‘one size fits all’ strategy of mailing a catalog to active buyers, regardless of where or how they came onto the file, is clearly in question,” he continues. As a result, marketers should now have the following goals:

To develop customer and prospect contact strategies on a seasonal basis, predicated upon the varied sources from which the customers were acquired.

To develop a circulation strategy that capitalizes on all available customer acquisition options.

To better understand the changes in consumer behavior.

Working with service bureaus to improve the ability to match back orders from the source that drove the sale is key to meeting all three goals, of course. So is making the most of improved e-commerce reporting and data-mining systems and greater management of affiliate programs. “Another important trend in understanding how channel integration is impacting consumer-buying habits was an increase in 2004 of mailed, Web, and phone customer satisfaction surveys,” Montana says. “The surveys are not only designed to improved the consumers’ total experience with the search and navigation of the marketers cited but also to better understand what drives the customers to the channels they chose.”

Thanks to the more detailed information now available, Montana says, marketers are now able to start answering—or begin testing hypotheses to determine the answers of—the following questions:

When and how often should I be e-mailing my customers and inhouse prospects?

How should I integrate my offline catalog and promotion strategies among my online customers?

How much can I spend in each channel to acquire customers?

Is the future value of a customer generated via catalog different from that of an online-sourced buyer? Does the value of an affiliate-sourced customer differ from that of one who was driven to the sale via paid search? Natural search?

How will the composition of my customer file change as a result of my integration strategies?

What is the impact of any one of these media on the others – for example, what sales are the offline catalog driving to the web and retail stores? Are people beginning their shopping on the web via paid or natural search but completing the sale on the phone or in a store?

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