21st Century Branches Into E-Commerce

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FARMINGDALE, NY -- David Schwartz was an architect before he started list company 21st Century Marketing, and now he's applying those skills to the design of a new division to capitalize on the opportunities created by the Internet.

Schwartz recently moved his company here into a building that he had a hand in creating. Like most other list companies, 21st Century is upgrading to keep pace with its rivals and attempting to carve a niche in interactive list services.

"There are a few holdouts, but I don't think there are any companies that [still] are pure list managers,'' said Schwartz, who is company president. "There has been a greater demand on list organizations to provide a broader range of support services to their clientele.''

List companies now provide data processing, list hygiene, list-rental fulfillment and the construction of proprietary databases as standard, and many of the larger players have increased their offerings through affiliations with service bureaus. Modeling and alternative media are other growth areas for 21st Century and others.

These areas, however, pale in comparison to the potential of the Internet, said Schwartz. He has formed a new division, 21st-e, which will focus on electronic commerce and e-mail marketing services, and has acquired a minority interest in Intelligent Catalogs Inc., Eugene, OR, home of the online catalog directory www.catalogfinder.com.

"E-mail is looked on to today as a potentially killer application for the World Wide Web,'' Schwartz said. "There are certain attributes of e-mail that are strategically advantageous when compared to any other type of direct marketing medium.''

E-mail can generate responses instantly and can be delivered more quickly and specifically than regular mail, cutting campaign cycles from weeks to days, Schwartz said. And the costs per thousand are lower.

The proliferation of home computers is projected to create a market of 90 million users by 2000, Schwartz said. By that time, he said, the shift from text-based to html-enhanced systems will allow e-mail to be presented with visuals, video, Web links and other features.

The alliance with Intelligent Catalogs will allow 21st-e to inexpensively bring catalogers online. As well as generating e-commerce revenue, the ultimate formation of an online catalog mall could provide a wealth of information for response-based lists and databases.

Schwartz said the mission of the list company isn't changing so much as expanding.

"We bring essential mailing list, brokerage and management services to users of direct marketing and now interactive marketing,'' he said.

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