DMA projects robust growth in online marketing and sales

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New York--Companies will spend $3.8 billion this year on interactive media marketing, up from $3.4 billion in 2001, according to the Direct Marketing Association's “Economic Impact Study,” currently being updated for this year.

That was one of the preliminary findings H. Robert Wientzen, president-CEO of the Direct Marketing Association, previewed for attendees during his opening remarks at the DMA's Conference Tuesday. Wientzen said interactive spending would top $13 billion in 2006.

Sales, on the other hand, will grow about 35% annually from last year's $30 billion to more than $130 billion in 2006. "At this pace, we expect direct marketers' online sales to surpass traditional catalogs within the decade," said Wientzen, who did not break out the b-to-b portion of those figures. He added that catalogers have been among the earliest integrators of the Web into their marketing, so that is "not necessarily bad news." In 2001, 19% of catalog sales were transacted online, and by 2003, that number is expected to jump to 25%.

Despite the forecast of continued growth, Wientzen's morning speech was a call to action to online marketers to meet the challenge of serving what he called "the new customer," who is much better informed and more demanding when it comes to pricing and service.

Wientzen's speech did not address the economic malaise that has continued to plague marketers but instead focused on top-line findings from recent DMA studies. The trade group’s "State of the E-Commerce Industry Report," for example, found that four out of 10 marketers have Web sites with real-time sales functionality. "There's a sizable discrepancy between consumer and business-to-business online sales," Wientzen said. "B-to-b sites, as opposed to consumer-driven sites, are more focused on lead generation than sales."

--Carol Krol

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