Matchbacks Made Simple

Once you begin taking a significant percentage of your orders on the Web you need a simple matchback process to make sure you are allocating Web orders correctly. But is there such a thing as a “simple” matchback process? Jim Coogan, president of Sante Fe, NM-based consultancy Catalog Marketing Economics, says yes.

Matching back is matching your unallocated orders (orders without a source code) back to the original mail file. “It is a merge/purge in reverse,” says Coogan. “You’re taking the orders from a defined date range after a catalog is dropped and matching those orders against the most recent mailings.”

If you don’t mail frequently and your catalog’s sales curves don’t have lots of overlap, the matchback involves little more than matching unallocated orders to the last mailing. “If several mailings overlap, match the names against the prospecting mail files that delivered sales during the time period by going back against each mail file,” Coogan says. “Match the house file names against the most recent mail file; usually allocating the house buyers is straightforward. Just give the sale to the most recent mailing of that particular house buyer file name. If you’ve got a lot of house file mailings dropping close together, pick some reasonable methodology to allocate the buyer file orders. Taking the weekly percentage of house file orders and allocating orders using that percentage is a workable formula.”

If you don’t have a simple matchback system in place, you will inevitably underreport Web sales and total sales from Web buyer segments. Web buyers typically respond by placing orders through the Web channel, and the Web segment will show soft sales if true demand is not allocated back to the Web segments or if a common factor for “unknown” orders is given equally to all segments. The problem with Web sales is that it is difficult to capture source codes from Web orders. As a result, you’ll be undermailing Web segments if historical Internet sales are not fully reported.

Keep it simple and you’ll be able to conduct most or all of the matchback work inhouse, Coogan says. “But keep in mind that you can’t just allocate ‘unknowns’ evenly across all segments as catalogers used to do in the good old days when call centers and mailed-in orders would capture key codes for 85%-90% of all orders.”