Strategy: Make Matchbacks a Routine
Matchbacks have become routine for catalogers. This is the process in which you check your orders against your recent mail tapes to give credit to the proper source code — to see where sales are originating, and which key code should be given credit for each sale. With the amount of business going to the Web, it’s next to impossible to track results to a specific source code without doing a matchback.
How a Matchback Is Done
Matchbacks link orders to mailings using merge/purge logic. The process allocates unknown orders back to mailed records based on customer-provided source code, customer number, merge/purge results, catalog in-home date and order date. The summary report includes key code, total mailed, total orders, total dollars, average order and dollars per book. Typical data needed to do a matchback includes:
• Mail files from the appropriate time frame.
• A listing of all valid source or key codes. Examples include print mailings, e-mail campaigns, affiliate marketing, bouncebacks and catalog request (inquiry) mailings.
• Order header records for the appropriate time frame. Desired fields include name/address, customer number, source code, order date and order amount.
There are an increasing number of records that can’t be matched to mail files. This is the result of increases in search and affiliate marketing on the Web. Since these customer names tend to be weak, companies are reducing the number of catalogs they mail to these customers.
This puts a premium on matchback programs that not only provide response reports, but also identify which customers are responding to a catalog mailing and which ones are coming from non-mailed sources or offers. Those responding to a catalog mailing then are put on a contact strategy appropriate for catalog responders, while the non-matches are sent two more catalogs at most. To accomplish this, the information should be brought back into the file so that when you “pull” customer records for a mailing, you can tell the difference between Web buyers and Web buyers driven by a catalog mailing.
Prior to the Internet, the non-traceable factor ranged from 15 percent to 20 percent. We could simply allocate the unattributed orders and sales back across all source codes on a proportional basis. This won’t work today because the allocation is far from proportional. Matchbacks have shown that it’s not appropriate to give equal weight to housefile, inquiries, co-op databases and rented lists.
In the chart below, the matchback attributed 35 percent of Web and unknown demand back to a specific mailing, and identified $1,075,769 of gross demand revenue back to a specific source code. What’s more, 62 percent of the total was allocated back to the housefile. This reinforces the fact that the catalog is the largest driver of traffic to the Web, and most of the business going to the Web really is from your own customers. About 17 percent of the non-traceable amount was matched back to a co-op, with the same allocated to outside rental lists.
Why Do a Matchback?
With an average of 40 percent of orders coming via the Internet, coupled with the 15 percent to 20 percent non-traceable factor for catalog sales we’ve been accustomed to for years, catalogers are lucky to trace 50 percent of their overall business to a specific source code. With all of these untracked orders, lists made up of Web buyers may look like they don’t work well, when they actually are profitable. But without a matchback, you’d never know.
Additionally, you might have lists that look like they’re falling off, or your total rentals may look like they’re trending downward. This might just be a result of heavier Web sales. It sounds simple, but without truly knowing the level of performance of all segments mailed, you could be lead to some false conclusions that influence your marketing strategy.
How frequently you run a matchback depends on how often you mail and how you’re going to apply the results and/or data to your marketing/circulation strategy. A matchback generally should be done two, three or four times a year depending on your degree of seasonality.
What Effect Do Remails Have?
Remails can have an effect on your matchback results. Let’s say you print for three catalog drops all at once, changing only the front cover. You might mail a Christmas 1 catalog in early October with Christmas 2 and 3 remails three or four weeks later. The matchback results will be allocated to the most recent drop, which in our example is Christmas 3. If your business is highly seasonal, this will skew results to the last mailing.
Therefore, the results of Christmas 1, 2 and 3 should all be added together in order to spread the results more accurately across all of these drops. When it finds a match, the program will match to the most recent mail date. If it doesn’t match that mail date, it goes back to an earlier drop, and so on.
Try to overlap matchback processing. If you’re doing quarterly matchbacks and the most recent mailing is only 30 percent done and the one prior is 60 percent done, include them in the run. «
Stephen R. Lett is president of catalog consulting firm Lett Direct Inc. Reach him at (302) 537-0375 or via his Web site: www.lettdirect.com