MULTICHANNEL MARKETING: DOT-COMS HIT THE MAIL

Online marketers Rx.com, Red Envelope launch print catalogs

While many catalogers see their future in e-commerce, two online marketers are looking in the other direction to grow their businesses, launching print versions of their Internet catalogs.

On Dec. 27, Austin, TX-based online drugstore Rx.com mailed its “Webalog” to roughly 1 million names. A month later, San Francisco-based Red Envelope Gifts mailed 650,000 copies of its debut catalog.

“We discussed launching a catalog from the very beginning when we were creating our original marketing plan,” says Rx.com spokeswoman Rachel Lee. The two-year-old company used a list broker to identify direct mail and online buyers of healthcare products. The 8-1/2″ x 11″ 48-page Webalog will mail quarterly.

“Our plan is to reach customers wherever they are, introduce them to our service, and allow them to order without using a computer,” Lee says. “Many of our potential customers are senior citizens who aren’t comfortable giving out credit card information online. The Webalog is also a step-by-step educational tool for using the ‘Net, with detailed ordering instructions.”

Like Rx.com, upscale gifts marketer Red Envelope says it planned to launch a print catalog since its founding (as 911gifts.com) in 1997. Chief operating officer Tom Bazzone, one of several veterans of multititle cataloger/retailer Williams-Sonoma at Red Envelope, explains that he and other members of management “saw the tremendous productivity of leveraging the database and going directly to your customer.” The company’s first catalog, a 5″ x 7″ 16-page book, mailed to 100,000 customers and 550,000 names from the Abacus database.

Bazzone believes catalogs offer better prospecting opportunities than the Internet. “Catalog lists are usually validated with transactional data. And you get a tighter demographic snapshot of catalog buyers. Online, people opt in to receive e-mail, but they’re not necessarily buyers.”

Early response has convinced Bazzone to continue mailing throughout the year, with the next two catalogs scheduled for Mother’s Day and Father’s Day. He also expects to branch out into retail in the near future.

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