The Electronic Catalog: Drilling Down Beyond Channel

Many catalogers, particularly business-to-business marketers, not only seek to allocate sales by channel, but also by individual consumer.

“B-to-b catalogers have a great asset in that they enjoy pass-along among employees that consumer catalogers may not experience in mailing to a home,” says Mary Ann Kleinfelter, vice president of sales and marketing for educational products cataloger Delta Education. “But we have a tremendous challenge inherent in that pass-along: Who is the real buyer — the purchasing agent who placed the order, or the worker who specified it?”

“We may mail to a director of physical therapy,” notes Bill Demas, executive vice president of Anatomical Chart Co., a cataloger of medical charts and educational supplies, “but the orders might come from the purchasing department.”

What’s more, in the course of being passed along, pages may be torn out or covers ripped off — and with them, the source code that enables the catalogers to allocate the sale accurately. Demas says that doctors, for instance, frequently tear out the page for the item they want the office managers to order. “So capturing the source code is a challenge, since we don’t list the source code on each catalog page.” Skokie, IL-based Anatomical avoids this obstacle by assigning such orders a bulk media code. “We do our best on the phone to capture our customer type,” Demas says, “and in this case we’ll code the buyer as a doctor and give him a bulk media code.”

As for Web sales, Anatomical’s site doesn’t even ask buyers if they were directed to the site by the print catalog. “We count all online sales as Web sales,” Demas says, regardless of where the sale might have originated.

Katie Muldoon, president of catalog consultancy Muldoon & Baer, says sourcing problems are not uncommon among b-to-b catalogers: “Addresses are not always accurate, so the catalog goes to the wrong person in the first place.” What’s more, she says, many purchase orders come in without source codes, which makes it even more difficult to correctly allocate the sale.

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