What’s the Frequency, Matchback?

By now we all know the value of matchbacks—determining the source of sales for which you didn’t capture a source code. But how frequently do you need to conduct matchbacks?

The answer, says Jim Harkins, principal of Bronxville, NY-based consultancy Jim Harkins & Partners, depends on your planning cycles.

If, for example, you plan catalog circulation in six-month increments, there really is no need to run matchbacks more frequently than twice a year, he says: “More-frequent matchback exercises will consume time and resources but not materially impact planning.” Multichannel merchants with a large retail component, however, may need more-frequent matchback processing for purposes of updating their retail buyers’ mail responsiveness.

When trying to allocate sources to purchases, Harkins adds, take a closer look at online orders in which customers used the quick-order function to enter the full item number of a product as it was printed in the catalog. For most catalogers, this SKU number includes an alphanumeric component that tells the order entry system what catalog the item is from, providing you with the information you need to track back a source even if you haven’t captured a source code.

Harkins also suggests including all your affiliate orders when running matchbacks, so that you can double-check the effectiveness of your affiliates. “In working with one cataloger with an ever-growing affiliate network, I noticed that affiliate sales tended to spike at the same time catalog sales did – immediately after a catalog drop,” he explains. “A matchback of the affiliate sales showed that more than 80% of affiliate sales were the direct result of catalog circulation. The affiliates were buying the cataloger’s URL as a paid search term, corralling the traffic, and selling it back to the mailer at a premium. Virtually no sales were lost upon termination of the affiliate program, while a very significant commission savings resulted.”

As for the 10%-30% of Web orders that will likely remain without a source even after the matchback process is complete, Harkins advises allocating them based on the percentage of sourced orders received that same day. In other words, if 30% of that day’s orders for which you have a source were driven by a particular catalog mailing, allocate 30% of the unsourced orders to that mailing; if search engines drove 25% of the sourced orders, allocate 25% of the unsourced orders to them. “It’s not a perfect solution,” Harkins concedes, “but it’s better than leaving them out of your circulation analysis entirely.”

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