Mailers say no to e-tailer inserts Catalogers prefer to stick with the programs of their peers With the Internet offering a viable new channel for remote buyers, you might think catalogers would be eager to participate in Web marketers’ package insert programs. Think again.

Las Vegas-based candy cataloger Ethel M. Chocolates is looking into participating in an insert program – but with other print catalogers. “We feel that customers respond best to the types of orders they have already responded to,” says direct marketing manager Tari Staton.

Likewise, Burlington, VT-based Gardener’s Supply Co. is considering using more package inserts to drive business. “But if we expand our participation,” says customer acquisition manager Gina Bernadet, “we will look to catalogs that offer different merchandise, but we will definitely stick to print catalogs.”

Food cataloger Omaha Steaks is one cataloger that has used pure-play insert programs, but response was weaker than from catalog insert programs, says director of marketing Vickie Hagan. “To target Web buyers to order from our catalog, we find that renting e-mail lists gives us a better response than Web-based inserts.”

Andy Ostroy, managing partner of list firm ALC New York, isn’t surprised by news of lackluster results. “Conceptually you would think that catalogers placing inserts through Internet-based companies would attract remote, and specifically, Web buyers, but it is simply not happening,” he says.

The lack of enthusiasm for online merchants’ package insert programs may be due in part to a lack of selection. Scarsdale, NY-based list firm Leon Henry, which specializes in alternative media programs, runs insert programs for at least 25 companies, but CEO Leon Henry cites only two Web-only merchants that offer package insert programs.

Insert disinterest Of course, some catalogers steer clear of all package insert programs, regardless of the type of marketer offering them. “We have tested a variety of insert programs and they have not been profitable,” says David Hochberg, vice president of public affairs for Rye, NY-based gifts and home goods cataloger Lillian Vernon. With annual sales of more than $255 million, “we have the resources to do large acquisition mailings that yield a big response rate that an insert program could not,” Hochberg adds.

Todd Meerdink, marketing manager of Wausau, WI-based athletic footwear catalog Eastbay, has also found it more effective to mail the entire catalog to prospects rather than to include a small direct mail piece in a package to a customer from an outside marketer.

“If you do not feature a high-ticket item on an insert, even a high response rate will not help you recover your investment,” Meerdink contends. “And while we would love to put our entire catalog in another company’s packages, that would be way too expensive.”