Whatever Happened to Precise DM Measurement
In ancient times — say 10 years ago — catalogers prided themselves on having a precisely measurable medium. They were the scientists of the marketing world. Most catalogers took the majority of their orders by phone and spent a great deal of effort capturing source codes and order IDs from every call.
As computer technology and database expertise became cheaper and more widely available, we were not only able to measure precisely which customers responded to our mailings, but also what they bought and from which editions of our catalogs. We measured the performance of every square inch of every edition and smugly thought we could answer every question about our audiences and their shopping behaviors.
The Direct Marketing Association defined the direct trade of that day as measurable in costs and results, improvable through testing and analysis, and expandable with confidence.
For better or worse, the advent of the Internet, the expansion of retail and, more importantly, consumers’ desire to shop when they want through the channels they want, made precise measurement a major challenge for catalogers as well as other direct marketers.
Addressing Today’s Challenge
The typical cataloger now receives about 50 percent of its direct orders online. Analyzing individual list performance poses a greater challenge as customers, especially prospects, receiving catalogs have no incentive to provide the marketer with a source code unless it’s imbedded in a promotional coupon code. Product sets and merchandise depth also vary. So if a catalog serves as an effective driver of customers to your Web site, those customers may end up buying items not even featured in the promotion they received.
Ten years ago, we knew all the media the customer had seen from us (namely, a stream of catalogs), and they willingly provided our telephone operators with information about the precise vehicle from which they were ordering. Now we’re lucky to be able to precisely measure half our sales.