An electronic broker…of sorts

In a hurry to rent a list of compiled names? Know what you want? Now you can place your order on the Web and download the files directly to your desktop or merge/purge house, simply by inputting a credit card number or user name and password.

Some list companies, such as Polk and I Rent America (IRA), already offer the service; others, such as Acxiom and American List Counsel, plan to offer the capability in six to nine months.

Richardson, TX-based list compiler IRA has been selling its compiled consumer lists via credit card on the Web since May, says Website marketing coordinator Brian Whalen. The average number of names purchased online is 1,500-2,000. In a few months, IRA plans to offer preprogrammed selects customized by client industry and market, to be accessed via a user name and password.

Denver-based list compiler Polk, which in July switched customers from its proprietary dial-up system to the Web, requires companies to open an account and access files with a user name and password. “We’re currently servicing about 10% of our national and local list orders through the Internet,” says Colin Lipincott, vice president of product management and analytical consulting.

Acxiom, which would not specify a launch date, plans to offer download capability for its InfoBase consumer file and other compiled lists in the near future, says Steve Brighton, group leader of the Direct Media Products Group, a Greenwich, CT-based division of Acxiom. And American List Counsel in Princeton, NJ, is working on offering a list download capability for its compiled lists and plans to have its system up within six months, says account executive Emily Briody.

But Tony White, chairman/CEO of Westminster, CO-based co-op database Abacus Direct, has no plans to move its secure, proprietary dial-up service to the Web. “Because of security concerns and our investment in the infrastructure, we’re more comfortable with the dial-up arrangement,” he says. It’s all in the bandwidth

Compiled lists, rather than response lists, are leading the electronic delivery trend, mainly because of the Internet’s bandwidth constraints. Compiled list requests tend to run in quantities of a few thousand names, which can easily be downloaded in minutes, while response list requests, which run in the millions, would tie up a computer for several hours, or simply crash it completely. “If you’re doing a radius select of a specific geography, and then identifying households and businesses within that geography, the Internet can handle that now,” Brighton explains.

But once bandwidth increases enough to allow the transfer of large files in minutes, catalogers will begin to find response lists available for Web downloading. Still, this capability could be as many as five years away, says David Schwartz, president of list broker/manager 21st Century Marketing in Farmingdale, NY. Once it arrives, he anticipates about 40% of all list orders will be fulfilled via the Web.

For response lists, though, the human factor will remain. “Mailers who need to research lists and make choices will continue to work through brokers,” Schwartz says. The brokers will then place the orders via the Web.

Schwartz sees cost-cutting, rather than efficiency, as the main driver for response list availability online. “When it becomes less costly and more efficient to transmit a significant quantity of names via the Web, catalogers and mailers will push for it,” he says.

In the meantime, not many mailers seem to be aware of the online ordering option. Representatives at Hanover Direct, Fingerhut, and The San Francisco Music Box Co. all said they had never looked into it. But given the chance, Janet Thompson, vice president of the San Francisco Music Box catalog, for one, says she would take advantage of it.

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