7th Annual Electronic Marketing Survey

Arguably the most surprising finding among this year’s electronic marketing survey was that 19% of the respondents still did not have an online catalog. Among the 232 Catalog Age subscribers who participated in the survey, the vast majority — 78% — had both online and offline catalogs. Another 2% offered only an online catalog. But 22% of the consumer catalogers and 18% of the business-to-business respondents did not have a Website. Nor did 24% of the respondents with annual sales of less than $10 million, compared with 17% of those with sales of $10 million-$49.9 million, and 16% of those with sales of at least $50 million.

Where catalogers have their online catalogs
Sales less than $10 million: Own Website 95%
Internet mall/co-op 5%
AOL 2%
Sales $10 million-$49.9 million: Own Website 100%
Internet mall/co-op 6%
Sales at least $50 million: Own Website 93%
Internet mall/co-op 14%
AOL 1%
Top methods for promoting online catalog
Sales less than $10 million: E-mail 77%
Search engines 73%
Promotions in catalog 69%
Direct mail (other than catalog) 42%
Print ads 42%
Sales $10 million-$49.9 million: E-mail 78%
Search engines 78%
Promotions in catalog 74%
Phone reps 39%
Sales at least $50 million: E-mail 88%
Promotions in catalog 81%
Search engines 69%
Direct mail (other than catalog) 49%

Also somewhat surprising: One-third of respondents didn’t use their online catalog to liquidate overstock. While 79% of the consumer respondents were taking advantage of the Web’s ability to quickly and cheaply rid them of excess inventory, only 47% of the b-to-bers did the same.

Money matters

While the economic malaise no doubt led marketers to make numerous budget cuts, few respondents reduced the percentage of their budget dedicated to maintaining their online catalogs. In fact, during the past year 52% increased the portion of their budget allotted to the Web. Another 39% kept the percentage about the same, and only 9% cut the allotment.

As for how much catalogers spent on annual Website maintenance, the difference between the smallest companies and the largest companies, while not necessarily surprising, was certainly striking. Respondents with annual sales of less than $10 million spent a mean $41,144 a year on Website maintenance, including staff, promotions, and order fulfillment. Respondents with annual sales of at least $50 million spent nearly eight times as much: a mean $322,931. (Catalogers with sales of $10 million-$49.9 million spent a mean $135,349.)

Mean number of full-time Website employees
Consumer: 2.5
B-to-b: 1.8
Sales less than $10 million: 1.4
Sales $10 million-$49.9 million: 1.7
Sales at least $50 million: 3.0

Looked at another way, none of the smallest respondents spent more than $500,000 a year on Website maintenance. And while none of the largest respondents spent less than $10,000, 36% spent more than $500,000.

Mean annual cost of Website maintenance
(includes promotions, fulfillment, and staff)
Consumer: $212,627
B-to-b: $152,457
Sales less than $10 million: $41,144
Sales $10 million-$49.9 million: $135,349
Sales at least $50 million: $322,931

Just as the largest catalogers spent more on their Websites, they were more likely to sell banner advertising on their sites. Those that did accept banner ads were hardly in the majority, however. Fourteen percent of respondents with sales of at least $50 million sold banner ad space on their sites, compared with 6% of those with sales of less than $50 million. B-to-bers were more likely than their consumer counterparts to sell banner ads: 13% compared with 8%.

Mean percentage of direct sales coming from the Web
Consumer: 27.7%
B-to-b: 14.5%
Sales less than $10 million: 22.6%
Sales $10 million-$49.9 million: 21.0%
Sales at least $50 million: 21.4%
Mean percentage of budget spent on Website
Consumer: 10.0%
B-to-b: 8.5%
Sales less than $10 million: 11.4%
Sales $10 million-$49.9 million: 5.9%
Sales at least $50 million: 7.5%

Spreading the word

The use of search engines as a promotional tool has slowly but steadily come into its own during the past few years. Among participants in our 2001 survey, 64% used search engines to drive traffic to their online catalogs; this year, 72% of respondents used search engine marketing (SEM).

Interestingly, SEM was slightly less popular among the largest catalogers than with their smaller counterparts. Sixty-nine percent of respondents with sales of at least $50 million used SEM, making it the third most popular tool for promoting their online catalog (behind e-mail and promotions in the print catalogs). In comparison, 73% of respondents with sales of less than $10 million used SEM; only e-mail was more popular. And SEM was tied for the top promotional tool, with e-mail, among respondents with sales of $10 million-$49.9 million: 78% used it.

Catalogers with e-commerce order database linked directly to catalog fulfillment systems
Consumer: 65%
B-to-b: 44%
Sales less than $10 million: 39%
Sales $10 million-$49.9 million: 68%
Sales at least $50 million: 59%

Conversely, the use of print advertising to promote the online catalog has declined significantly during the past two years. Whereas 51% of respondents to the 2001 survey used print ads, only 37% of the most recent participants did. And as with SEM, the smallest catalogers were more likely than the largest to buy print ads: 42% vs. 37%. (Of the catalogers with sales of $10 million-$49.9 million, one-third used print advertising to drive Web traffic.)

Of the Website features offered by respondents, a secure-socket connection for credit-card purchases was by far the most common. Eighty-eight percent of the respondents who sold online offered it. That includes 95% of the consumer catalogers but only 75% of the b-to-b participants. In fact, 19% of the b-to-bers took orders only by phone, mail, or fax, even though they professed to sell online.

The prevalence of secure sockets wasn’t the only disparity between consumer catalogers and b-to-bers. For instance, 93% of the consumer respondents provided online customers with an e-mail order confirmations, but only 70% of the b-to-b catalogers did. And while 83% of the consumer catalogers offered automatic calculation of shipping and handling and sales tax, among the b-to-bers the percentage declined to 58%.

There were also a few disparities among respondents by company size. Although 61% of respondents with sales of at least $50 million offered online order tracking, only 47% of those with sales of $10 million-$49.9 million did, as did just 36% of those with sales of less than $10 million. And though 47% of the largest catalogers and 43% of the midsize respondents provided real-time stock availability, only 21% of the smallest catalogers did.

Catalogers using site/session analysis
Consumer: 62%
B-to-b: 44%
Sales less than $10 million: 43%
Sales $10 million-$49.9 million: 54%
Sales at least $50 million: 64%

Interested in the complete results from our Electronic Marketing Survey? To purchase the full report, visit The Marketer’s Research Store on www.CatalogAgemag.com.


On Feb. 21, Primedia Business Marketing Research e-mailed 3,622 Catalog Age subscribers, selected on an nth-name based, an invitation to the survey. The invitation contained an embedded URL linking the recipients to the Website where the survey was located. Respondents were offered a change to be entered into a drawing for one of four $50 Amazon.com gift certificates. A follow-up e-mail was sent on Feb. 28. By March 10, Primedia Business Marketing Research had received 232 usable surveys; 1,193 outbound e-mails were undeliverable, and 14 surveys were returned incomplete. The resulting effective response rate was 9.6%.

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