PRIMED FOR ONLINE: DIRECT SKILLS TRANSLATING WELL TO E-COMMERCE: GRUPPO STUDY

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Seventy-three percent of direct marketers conduct transactions on the Internet and 43% of those online efforts are profitable, according to a recent study from Gruppo, Levey & Co. The findings indicate direct marketers can reap the benefits of their discipline in the online world.

"The Web really taps into the same type of direct-to-end-user marketing that direct marketers have always known how to do," said Gruppo VP Karen Burka.

CATALOGS ONLINE

Direct marketing techniques like customization, targeting, database marketing and seasonal offers have been translated and used widely on the Web by direct marketers. Sixty-nine percent of marketers surveyed offer their complete print catalogs online.

Gruppo surveyed by phone 60 marketers including Avon Products, L.L. Bean, Fidelity Investments, Lenox Collections, Peapod and Playboy Enterprises.

Database marketing figures prominently into the respondents' planning. Eighty percent either currently integrate or have plans to integrate demographic information from Web site customers into their marketing databases. And 27% of survey respondents already are using targeting technologies to customize product offerings online based on information captured in their databases.

One direct marketing executive said, however, the nut hasn't been cracked yet on meaningful data analysis.

NOT ENOUGH DATA YET

"Our information sets are more robust in the offline world," said Danny Flamberg, exec VP-director of direct marketing, Ammirati Puris Lintas, New York. "Online, no one's gathering enough data yet."

THE BACK END

Mr. Flamberg said the back end -- tracking who the customers are, what they did in terms of purchasing behavior, who potential customers are and what they'll do next -- is the key.

"Whoever gets the back end right first wins," he said.

"Currently, collection strategies focus on demographic information," Ms. Burka said. "I think direct marketers are being careful because they're trying to balance privacy concerns with the need to gather information."

Many companies surveyed were sensitive to privacy concerns, though less than half, 48%, said they wouldn't rent names and customer information to other companies.

It seems the larger the company, the less likely it is to market its customer information. A full 75% of companies with annual sales of more than $100 million

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