Prefer Network Begins Testing Database

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Prefer Network, New York, began offering selects this month for clients who signed on early to test its co-op database -- about a month ahead of its expected Feb. 15 launch date.

"We want all of our clients to be able to test it as early as possible and be able to get some reads on it. Then we need to build and refine more models for them for the fall," said Doug Platt, CEO of Prefer Network. He added, "Our initial tests have been doing very well. We have seen response results that are all over the place."

Prefer offers its clients, mostly catalogers, an online database of consumer buying behavior across multiple books. The model is meant to help catalogers upsell and cross-sell by providing consumers with a single database of clients' products at, which was launched last April.

Last spring, Prefer had signed on 28 clients to use the service. Since then, it has increased that number to approximately 60, including Orvis, Jos. A. Bank and Restoration Hardware. While Prefer hopes that number will increase to 100 clients by mid-February, Platt said, "Catalogs that are signing up right now -- we've got about a 30-day waiting period before they can actually get their data into the database because we're backed up."

Prefer plans to begin an endorsed e-mail exchange program among its clients to promote the network of catalogs to consumers.

"If you're Omaha Steaks, for instance, we'll mail e-mails to your clients and include some other product offers in them, and vice versa -- you'll get access to run [products] in other e-mails that are targeted," Platt said.

Last May, the company -- which is a little more than a year old -- partnered with list firm Mokrynski & Associates to pitch the service to Mokrynski's catalog clients. Prefer expects to sign other brokers as future partners, but Platt declined to name specific firms.

In October, Prefer mailed 500,000 prospecting catalogs; the 52-page book represented 25 clients.

"We [have] clients who received upwards of $50,000 worth of sales out of that," Platt said. "It seemed to go better than we had expected."

This year, Prefer plans to produce print catalogs for the fall and holiday seasons, with a first drop scheduled for July. Platt said the company might also produce an apparel and a non-apparel book.

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