Super-recency heats up

Jun 01, 1999 9:30 PM  By

Three-month hotline names have long been a popular list select among catalogers. But two-month, one-month, and even one-week “super-recent” hotlines are becoming increasingly available.

Cooperative database RFMplus “is essentially a weekly hotline” of buyers from 70 catalog participants, says Frank Quaranta, director of new products and system development for the Millard Group, the Peterborough, NH-based list company that created the super-recent hotline database with Hackensack, NJ-based list firm Mokrynski & Associates. “Seven- and 14-day buyers are available to participants for an average of $40/M on top of either an exchange fee or the base 30-day or 60-day hotline rental price, depending on which method the mailer chooses to rent the list.” Base rental prices for RFMplus participants start at $25/M.

The primary method used to acquire the information in RFMplus is the same one that’s used to process credit card transactions. “When someone places an order with a catalog, the credit card company approves the transaction, and the customer’s data are bounced back to the card company and to e-commerce network OrderTrust, which channels the information to database experts Experian/DirectTech, which then provides the information to us,” Quaranta says.

Not for co-ops only While RFMplus’s weekly hotline names are available only to co-op members, mailers don’t need to be part of a co-op to find one- and two-month hotlines, says Debra Goldstein, manager of the list management division of Scarsdale, NY-based list firm Leon Henry. Half of Leon Henry’s 65 list files are updated monthly, she claims. “When a lead is generated through the catalog’s 800-number or through the Internet, it’s then forwarded directly to the list owner’s service bureau, which in turn sends the information over to us.” Goldstein says that monthly hotline names as a select cost $10/M-$15/M on top of the base price.

Super-recent names are most popular with catalogers that sell lower-end goods, says Howard Kupfer, senior vice president of Mokrynski & Associates. “Mailers with an average order of $50 or less tend to use hotlines more than higher-end mailers,” since buyers of lower-end products typically spend less but shop more often than upscale buyers.

Varying response improvements Not surprisingly, all the list companies that market super-recent names tout their effectiveness. For instance, while Goldstein won’t disclose specifics, she says that Leon Henry’s one- and two-month hotline names have performed well for her renters. “Some mailers have rented the same lists a few times because they’re so successful,” she says. And Liz Buderus, product manager of extranet and house file products for co-op database Abacus, says one cataloger experienced a 5% increase over projected sales after mailing to 60-day hotline prospects.

RFMplus has tested close to 500 mailings, Quaranta says, and he asserts that more than 30% of its test mailers have seen a lift in response of 20%-30%. “For each month of recent buyers, mailers see an average 20% increase in response,” he says. “For example, a two-month hotline list will yield a 20% greater response than a three-month hotline list,” while a one-month hotline list should produce a 40% jump in response, he claims.

List pros say that catalogers use super-recent names for more than straight prospecting, though. At Broomfield, CO-based Abacus, “we can identify in our mailers’ inactive house files the names of buyers who have purchased from other catalogs in the past 30 days,” Buderus says. This prompts many catalogers to mail to these inactive buyers-with satisfying results. “One mailer saw a response rate that was 65% better than the average list rental when using recency to target house file names,” she claims, adding that another cataloger saw a 38% increase over projected sales. The average price for Abacus’s 60-day hotlines is $60/M-$80/M, according to Buderus.

But super-recency hotlines aren’t likely to make six-month and 12-month buyer files obsolete, primarily because they’re simply not large enough to make up a mailing. Lori Precht, marketing manager for Sperryville, VA-based apparel and gifts cataloger Faith Mountain Co., says that one- and two-month hotline names from RFMplus account for only about 5% of the cataloger’s mailings. “We mail to 50,000 60-day buyers about six times a year,” she says. Yet even in small numbers, the super-recent names pack a punch: Precht says they have improved response 20%.