Holiday Web Sales Bring Match-backs to the Forefront in 2005

It’s no secret that most catalogers received their share of Internet orders during the holiday season. But the Web sales were more likely a migration from their print catalogs than a true incremental lift. And as marketers tally their holiday sales from the Internet, matching back to the catalog will be all the more crucial in 2005.

The problem here is that most marketers aren’t doing it. Bill LaPierre, vice president of catalog brokerage at Peterborough NH-based list services firm Millard Group, estimates that 80% of marketers are not accurately matching their Internet sales back to their catalogs. “Most are doing a half-hearted effort.” The danger, LaPierre says, is you wind up understating the impact of the catalog to the Website and therefore make uneducated marketing decisions. For example, failing to match back Web orders to the catalog source can cause you to dismiss effective rental lists as failures. Knowing which segments of a catalogs circulation are driving Web sales is critical to making good circulation decisions and maximizing profitability.

Here’s a few tips to keep in mind when analyzing your Web traffic:

Keep an eye on total dollars and orders being reallocated to different sources. Are the percentages increasing? Are they so material that small changes in method could result in serious changes in business decisions? For instance, would reallocated dollars cause segments or even entire mailings to drop below breakeven?

Understand that all match-back decisions are based on assumptions — for instance, how many days is the “life” of an e-mail vs. a catalog. How these assumptions are handled can affect mailing decisions.

Some offers, such as discounts, are more trackable than others. Run periodic, highly trackable promotions that can be redeemed in all channels. This allows you to measure how customers are actually using channels and provides a “check and balance” on allocations.

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