Perfecting an Imperfect Science
Debra Ellis, president of Barnards-ville, N.C.-based Wilson & Ellis Consulting, views matchback data as “interesting information,” but not gospel. “Matchbacks are a good guess,” she says, adding that if catalogers place too much weight on them, they could make marketing decisions that are detrimental to their businesses.
“I have seen people go in and substantially cut back on their catalog and direct mail pieces thinking that everything’s being driven by e-mail, because that’s what the matchbacks are showing,” she points out. “Then six months later, their sales are down. When they beef up catalog and direct mailings, sales begin to pick up again.”
While National Allergy Supply’s Fry notes that the information gleaned from matchbacks is useful, he’d like to validate, for certain, whether his team is making the correct assumption on those who are influenced by the catalog.
“We’d like to learn whether we should continue mailing catalogs to them,” he says, “and about how to use the customer purchase data to seamlessly and easily provide offers through targeted e-mail programs to these cross-channel customers.”
Moore points out that Practicon’s growing online business raises the issue of how to pinpoint what drove customers to the Web site to begin with. “With an Internet sale,” he says, “we’re struggling to know if it’s come in via search, a catalog or just a visit to the site.”
At White Flower Farm, the matchback challenge lies in seasonal overlap. Being a gardening business, seasons are very distinct; however, customers don’t always see it that way. “The minute my fall book goes in the mail,” Calder says, “it’s getting credit for the order, even though it may be a spring product. That’s where I have some muddy water, and I don’t know that any matchback tool can fix it.”