List Watch: Mailers Reflect on Hot Selects

When prospecting, catalogers for the most part are sticking to the “tried and true” selects on mailing lists: dollar amount spent, recency of purchase, product purchased, and frequency. We asked several catalogers and list industry experts about the hottest selects right now. — Ellen Hansen

Dean Jackson is vice president of marketing for Sperryville, VA-based women’s apparel and gifts cataloger Faith Mountain Co.

Standard list selects are usually limited to basic RFM [recency, frequency, monetary]. We tend to focus on recency and monetary, selecting average purchase vs. cumulative dollar if available. If a list offers it, we may select product/theme selects that match our affinity, especially if the list in question is diverse. In some cases, and only with the list owner’s permission, we’ll use model overlays to enhance response.

Product category of purchase, such as apparel vs. hard goods, is the select most requested of us. It cuts into the next layer of our file, above and beyond [the standard selects]. It allows mailers top penetration into our file, more than just using the zip select.

Shardul Pandya is catalog director at Midlothian, VA-based company TechnoBrands, which produces high-tech gadgets catalog TechnoScout.

When testing a mailing list you want to be as tight with your selects as possible. We most often use the hotline select — the most-recent names available — when testing a list. Thirty-day buyers are preferable, but we’ll take three-month buyers if the owner does not update the list every month. Hotline works the best for us and is followed by dollar, gender, and product selects. As a mailer, you can try all kinds of fancy selects, but for the price you pay, nothing works like good old recency and monetary.

Michael Stopka (left) is the president/owner and Larry Karkos is director of marketing of Arlington Heights, IL-based home decor cataloger Design Toscano.

Stopka: We typically use dollar selects. The higher the dollar of the merchandise to be offered, the higher the dollar select must be.

Following dollar amount, the selects we use most often are male [gender], recency, and then product. Although 60% of our catalog buyer file represents females, males outperform females in the dollar amount spent. In the holiday gift-giving season, recency is the most important select to use. The recency selected is tighter if the item is not in season or it’s approaching the end of its peak season. For example, if the item is a garden book and it is in season, we’re more apt to use the 12-month buyer select.

Karkos: We try to target dollar selects on the season we’re in. For example, during the holiday season, the items featured are different from merchandise the rest of the year because we focus on gift-appropriate items and tabletop products. The price points of the items are lower, therefore the dollar selects are also lower.

During the holiday season we can go deeper into the file and be less picky on our selects because we tend to get the impulse buyers. The rest of the year, the dollar selects are higher than during gift season because the items featured are higher in price.

When using product selects, we omit apparel because we don’t sell clothing, and we omit jewelry except for during the holiday season. But we use garden, outdoor tools, and home decor selects throughout the year.

Mary Louie, of Greenwich, CT-based list firm Direct Media, is the list manager for Redmond, WA-based Eddie Bauer; Jerilyn Warren is the new customer planning manager for the apparel and home products cataloger/retailer.

Louie: Recency and dollar are the selects most requested by mailers using Eddie Bauer’s file. These selects can help boost the response rate and average order size. We also use many product selects, for example, apparel vs. home, to tighten it up.

Warren: RFM, product, and zip are the selects we ask for most often when using prospect names. Some of the product selects we use include apparel and home decor; during the holiday season, we also use gift selects.

Steve Jones is the vice president of marketing for the Austin, TX-based cataloger Golfsmith International.

The list select we must use is “golfer,” because Golfsmith is such a niche catalog. We have tested other list selects but with little success. We found the response rate to be 15%-25% lower when testing other selects. For example, dollar select is not as important for us as the golfer select. But we can make some other overlays work, such as recency and age.

Ray Schneeberger is senior vice president of list management for List Services Corp., a list firm based in Bethel, CT. Overall, the list selections that seem to work the best for our catalog clients include recency, product categories, and dollar amount spent, in breakdowns of $25+, $50+, and $100+, for instance. And the catalog requestors’ segment has generated renewed interest as an untapped new source of qualified leads.

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