RealTime IT News

Abacus Goes Multi-Channel

DoubleClick's Abacus unit is taking the wraps off a tool designed to better track the efficacy of retailers' multi-channel campaigns.

Broomfield, Colo.-based Abacus, which operates the nation's largest co-op offline consumer database, is offering its new ChannelView service to retailers and marketers conducting business via both traditional media and online.

The ASP service tracks and analyzes activity in real time from direct mail and catalogs, e-mail, e-commerce and offline sales, helping marketers identify specific campaigns' effectiveness in converting consumers. As a result, clients can use ChannelView to quantify the return on investment from their campaigns, and optimize their marketing efforts for maximum effectiveness.

The service, a stand-alone product that will be offered to current Abacus customers and non-customers, launches with clients that include Bass Pro, Restoration Hardware, Flax art & design and Vermont Country Store.

The move is designed to address a growing necessity for tools to manage, track and quantify the return from multi-channel marketing efforts.

A host of companies do already track offline consumer conversion from online promotions, and vice versa. But the field has been primarily limited to the couponing and incentives space, where the use of special codes, account numbers or club programs makes it easier for marketers to track conversions and ROI.

For the rest of the marketing world, it's been harder to integrate online and offline efforts. Previous initiatives have generally only covered one form or the other, with companies like Advertising.com and Tacoda Systems each in the business of analyzing and optimizing only across online channels.

Meanwhile, online ad industry players and marketing services firms chiefly focused on publicizing and proving the Internet's ability to drive offline conversions. In 2000, for instance, DoubleClick partnered with Information Resources Inc., a consumer package goods market researcher, to use consumer panels to gauge Web advertising effectiveness.

Yet these efforts would appear to address only half of the problem. Industry-watchers like Jupiter Media Metrix maintain that more involved forms of combining on- and offline tracking remain underutilized by large retailers.

At the same time, studies have shown that most large retail brands use multi-channel marketing but insufficiently track their results. For instance, the Direct Marketing Association's most recent Interactive Industry Report found that almost all marketers use cross-media promotions, but less than a quarter can effectively track consumer behavior across channels or multi-channel ROI.

In part, the industry's efforts at combining online and offline tracking has lagged due to privacy issues, such as those raised in DoubleClick's now-aborted plan to combine Abacus data, which contains profiles on some 90 million U.S. households, with its own online profiles. (The new Abacus offering, unlike DoubleClick's earlier plan, serves as a tool for clients to aggregate only their own, proprietary customer data.)

On the other hand, officials at Abacus contend that a major impediment to the accurate linking of on- and offline data has been the lack of suitable technology.

"For the first time, multi-channel marketers now have access to a powerful tool allowing the marketer to view the cross-channel impact of marketing campaigns by matching the customer, to the promotion and to the channel," said ChannelView general manager Paul Imbierowicz. "As consumers continue to purchase across multiple channels, this tool will allow marketers to make timely and effective decisions which will impact their profitability."