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Catalogers Seeing Returns from Web

While direct marketing and retail channels continue to be a mainstay for the cataloging industry, online sales are posting ever-greater gains, according to figures from DoubleClick's Abacus subsidiary.

Broomfield, Colo.-based Abacus, which operates one of the cataloging and direct mail industry's largest co-op databases, said it's seen offline catalog sales holding relatively steady in 2001, while the value of online transactions increased 47 percent during the year.

Buyers who received a catalog and then bought online increased from 7 percent in 2000 to nearly 9 percent last year. For merchants marketing products across both online and offline channels, consumer migration to the Internet continued, with the number making online sales climbing from 10 percent to 26 percent from the first quarter of 2000 to the last quarter of 2001.

"We are seeing that multi-channel marketers have rapidly adopted a channel shift in their business, which has important implications on how staffing and inventory control decisions are made and demonstrates that catalogers require a complete understanding of the interaction of all their channels to achieve success," said Abacus President Brian Rainey.

In addition, the data found that online buyers were proving some of the most valuable, accounting for the highest percentage of sales in big-budget product categories such as outdoor and leisure items. About 41 percent of sales of recreational and outdoor enthusiast products came from the online channel in 2001. High-ticket mail and female apparel followed, at roughly 36 percent.

The firm attributed the shift to the fact that these sorts of products' cater to the young and affluent, which roughly parallels the Internet's heaviest user demographic.

While the findings — which are culled from Abacus' database of 90 million U.S. households — would seem to serve as a red flag to offline marketers to consider establishing an online sales or advertising channel, DoubleClick also seized on the opportunity to make a soft sell for its new ChannelView product, which tracks multi-channel retailers' on- and offline sales.

"An analysis of the catalog industry that focuses only on catalog results is no longer complete, since a catalog mailing may result in a mail-order purchase, an online transaction or a store visit," Rainey said.

Reprinted from Internet Advertising Report