Insight aims for 1-to-1 via e-mail

With the increasing use of e-mail promotions, customers’ e-mailboxes are growing as cluttered as their physical mailboxes. To set its e-mail apart from the competition’s and reduce costs, in February computer cataloger Insight Enterprises introduced the eCatalog, an e-mail catalog with graphics that resembles a page from its printed catalog.

Insight currently transmits nearly 20 category-specific versions of the eCatalog, including a Software eCatalog and a Networking eCatalog, to nearly 300,000 customers who have opted in to the service through the company’s Website. Subscribers choose how frequently they receive the e-mail offers-daily, weekly, bimonthly, or monthly. Each eCatalog features about 20 products.

Every graphic element of the eCatalog links to the Website (, where customers can get product details, check pricing and availability status, and place orders. As a result, Insight says it will likely mail fewer catalogs, and is reducing the cost of its faxback order service. “The computer industry typically has low product margins and many competitors,” says Chuck Jarrell, vice president of outbound marketing for the ñ1 billion Phoenix-based Insight. “The eCatalog gives us another way to reduce costs while encouraging subscribers to shop.”

While e-mail text messages are typically 2K-3K in size, each eCatalog file is 15K-30K because of its graphics. (A printed catalog page with graphics, on the other hand, can run as much as 2MB in size.) Recipients need to have a system that supports e-mails with graphics, which most online services and browsers can do. “Adding graphics is eye-catching and may encourage recipients to buy sooner, but we also don’t want to make the system unmanageable for the recipients,” Jarrell says.

Toward one-to-one Insight says that by midyear it will begin producing more database-driven personalized eCatalogs, with highly focused offerings such as mobile products or home office equipment, based on its customers’ past purchasing behavior information. Other versions will include editorial content and will address topical issues such as Y2K.

Insight’s inbound and outbound sales forces will also be able to create and send an eCatalog specific to a client’s needs while the client is on the phone, Jarrell claims. “The eCatalog in its current form may be the next step in direct marketing via the Internet. Right now, the eCatalog is only 25% of what we want to do with the program. Individual eCatalog customization is the ultimate goal.”–SO

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