Co-op Database Firm Simulates, Delivers Results for Cataloger

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Early October results indicate that models selected by cooperative database company Prefer Network using a new technique are working for multi-title cataloger Direct Retailing.


Direct Retailing formed in late 2004 after acquiring the Linda Anderson, The Music Stand and Characters catalogs from veteran direct marketer Phil Wiland's former firm Concepts Direct.


The Linda Anderson title was enrolled in the Prefer Network co-op by Concepts Direct in November 2004 prior to being taken over by Direct Retailing, said Gretchen Dexter, marketing manager at Direct Retailing, Ozark, MO.


Catalog co-op Prefer Network, New York, launched in 2000 and is owned by Catalog Marketing Services, St. Paul, MN. The database has 500 participants contributing 24 months of SKU-level data.


Based on the performance of the database for Linda Anderson, Direct Retailing signed up The Music Stand and Characters this year. The additional names the company can get from the database are especially needed in the fall when Direct Retailing mails a higher volume of catalogs.


"Fall is a big season with increased circulation for our titles," Dexter said. "I find that there are a lot of new [prospecting] names in the beginning of the year but they run out toward the end of the year when we really need them."


October mailings for all three catalog titles included Prefer Network models based on the Prefer Performance Simulator, which launched this year. The simulator lets Prefer Network make more accurate recommendations than in the past, Prefer Network CEO Doug Platt said.


"What we wanted to do was to be able to look at our clients performance in the mail and essentially be able to re-create and look at which Prefer Network model would have been the best for them to mail," Platt said. "So, looking at a results tape, we can go back in time and take a snapshot of the database from the time that they did the mailing, and by working through the simulator we can determine which of our numerous models would have been the best one."


New clients now have the assistance of the simulator before putting any Prefer model in the mail. It is routinely used for all Prefer clients now, Platt added.


Direct Retailing tests all of Prefer's recommended models, Dexter said.


"We understand that they are using the simulator to pick the models that they recommend to us," she said. "We mailed Prefer models for all three of our catalogs in October, and we're getting good results on all the Prefer segments that we have mailed."


Though she would not elaborate on the specifics of the campaign or the early results, Dexter said she is happy with her results via Prefer Network.


"When we prospect we have certain criteria, and the Prefer segments that we mail on continuation obviously meet and in a lot of cases exceed the criteria," she said.


For tests, Direct Retailing usually puts 7,500 to 10,000 names in the merge for a couple of mail cycles. Based on results, the company will take all the names in a segment that yields good results.


"The top Prefer selects usually give us 15,000-18,000 to put into the merge," Dexter said. "Then we mail everything that nets from that."


However, Direct Retailing does not take its entire prospecting universe from the Prefer Network database. The company prospects to vertical lists using list brokerage firm Direct Media Inc., Greenwich, CT, which also manages its lists. It also belongs to at least one other cooperative database.


Dexter would not name the other co-ops that Direct Retailing belongs to but was quick to say that she is pleased with Prefer.


"Overall we are having good results with the co-ops we are using," Dexter said. "We're really comfortable with our level of involvement right now and haven't had any discussions about pulling back."


Kristen Bremner covers list news, insert media, privacy and fundraising for DM News and DMNews.com. To keep up with the latest developments in these areas, subscribe to our daily and weekly e-mail newsletters by visiting www.dmnews.com/newsletters


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