Perfecting an Imperfect Science
With the Internet fast becoming the vehicle of choice for catalog shoppers to place orders, catalogers face the challenge of identifying what inspired those buys to begin with. The more marketing channels available, the more ways companies can reach existing clients and prospects. But unless a buyer purchases the old-fashioned way — via phone, fax or mail — or types the key code of a catalog into the Web order form, it’s tough to determine whether that sale was driven by the catalog, an e-newsletter, a Google search or an intentional visit to your site.
Earlier this year, Catalog Success polled multichannel merchants to show the differences in how they handle matchbacks. Only a little more than half of those surveyed have matchback programs. And among those that do, just 41 percent said their programs are accurate and reliable.
Duluth, Ga.-based National Allergy Supply conducts matchbacks internally. John Fry, vice president of marketing and sales, feels that some of the conclusions one may draw from the data can be subjective.
“It’s accurate as far as confirming who received a catalog and whether they placed an order,” he says. “Many catalogers say, ‘If you received a catalog and you placed an order online and you’ve placed orders online before, for the sake of response rates we’re still going to believe that the catalog influenced that order.’”
Could one also assume that 25 percent of those customers threw the catalog away and weren’t influenced at all? “All you know,” Fry says, “is that they got it and that they placed an order.”
Matchbacks help Fry and his team on a more concrete level with square-inch analysis. “Having that information about customers’ orders still allows us to determine what’s selling in a catalog, and what’s not,” he says.
Lorraine Calder, president/CEO of Litchfield, Conn.-based White Flower Farm, says that for the past two years her company has been using an outside service to produce weekly matchbacks. In Calder’s business, the catalog is the driver, and she matches back to the most recent mailing.