Four Ways to Improve Online Source-Code Capture Rates

In the early days of catalogs, source code capture was the means to analyze results and close the planning cycle for future mailings, says Jim Harkins, principal of Bronxville, NY-based consultancy Jim Harkins & Partners. Then along came the Internet, making analysis more complicated, especially since online capture rates of source codes are abysmally low.

“We could live with that when Internet sales were single-digit percentages,” Harkins says, “but now even the catalogers at the tail of the curve have more than 20% of their sales coming in via the Web.”

To better track and allocate online sales to the source, Harkins offers the following suggestions:

Ask for the source code on your Website. The trick is to make the request at the very beginning of the checkout process and to make the request very visible. This circumvents the “process fatigue” factor from setting in. The closer to the end of the checkout process, the less likely it is that you’ll get a valid code from a customer anxious to complete the transaction. “One cataloger made this simple change, and I watched source-code capture go from 39% to 60% of Web orders on the day it was implemented,” Harkins says. And the cost to implement is virtually nil.

Keep the code simple. Source codes are cryptic to customers, and complicated alphanumeric combinations will be harder for a customer to read and enter on a Website. “HV9JBQ2” is harder for a customer to read and enter than “415 163.” Some letters are easily mistaken for numbers, such as “B” and “Q.” Spaces or hyphens breaking out the source code into blocks of three or four characters facilitate reading and capture. The shorter and easier to read the code it is, the more likely it is you’ll capture it.

Make the source code easy to find. When you ask for the catalog source code, tell the customer exactly where it is: “The seven-digit number in the pink box above your name and address on the back of the catalog…”

Provide source codes for noncatalog marketing efforts as well. E-mail, run-of-press advertising, and affiliate marketing should all have source codes embedded in the links or the printed URLs to keep them from further muddying the catalog response.

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