Continuity Clubs Are Not Dead

Reports of the demise of the continuity club are premature, at least according to Seth D. Radwell. The president of New York-based e-Scholastic and executive vice president of Scholastic gave the opening keynote presentation, “Continuity in an Age of E-Commerce” during List Vision 2005.

Continuity-club marketers in the last few years, Radwell said, were often forced with giving customers a sweeter offer (“increasing our bribe” as he put it) while accepting lower-quality customers. “That’s not the answer,” Radwell says. “That’s a death spiral.”

But Radwell insisted there’s a way to save the negative option model, in which products are automatically mailed to members at predetermined intervals unless the customers indicate ahead of time that they don’t want them. And coming to the rescue of the old-style marketing tactic is a new-fangled medium: the Internet.

The Web, he said, enables continuity marketers to create a model that is transparent to the customers, gives customers more control over which products they want, and simplifies the offer, usually by providing a flat price or inexpensive or free shipping and handling.

By putting club offerings online, marketers enable customers to “tell you what they or don’t like. Really it’s a secondary chance to move merchandise,” Radwell said. For example, customers can indicate that they don’t like the main selection for that month, “so you can take opportunity to ask them what they are looking for. It creates a much more dynamic learning atmosphere.”

And rather than market to consumers with yesterday’s tired offer of “12 CDs for a dollar” Radwell instructed attendees to offer “content pull” devices. For example, Scholastic offers club members information such as “Top 10 Authors,” “Behind the Series,” and “Tips for Getting Your Child to Read.”

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