Feature: DRTV Marketers Using Emerging Technology to Understand Customers

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Steven Edelstein, managing director of Fosdick Fulfillment Corp., Wallingford, CT, is a man with a message.

"It's not just direct response - it's direct to customer," Mr. Edelstein said. "It's all about the end user. You need to know: Who is your customer?"

Mr. Edelstein is a firm believer in what he calls "advancement through process," the enhancement of revenue growth through the adoption of new technologies coupled with attention to data.

"The bottom line is that DRTV is a data-centric business model," Mr. Edelstein said.

Savvy marketers need to be familiar with the following technologies and should be able to answer the question, "How will this technology affect my business?"

I-ordering, the evolved form of e-business, encompasses many areas such as partnership marketing, search marketing and electronic data interchange.

"But it's not just about selling through a certain channel," Mr. Edelstein said. "It's a way of learning more about your customer: how she buys, when she buys and how much she buys."

RSS, or Really Simple Syndication, is a great way to deliver your message through multiple mediums, cell phone, e-mail, even in your car if, like many new luxury models, it has Bluetooth capability.

"It's about vertical integration of content," Mr. Edelstein said, "delivering content in a dynamic, actionable environment."

Marketers can also take a lesson from their kids, who seem to spend more time instant messaging their friends than actually speaking with them.

"Instant messaging is not just about entertainment these days," Mr. Edelstein said. "It allows companies to communication with the end user, promote products and services, and amortize labor costs."

Neiman Marcus, for example, gets between 50,000 and 75,000 chat sessions on its Web site every week between 6 p.m. and midnight. The company's demographics are skewed heavily towards professional women with little time to shop.

Also, Neiman-Marcus gets somewhere in the region of a 34 percent conversion rate from these chat sessions.

"IM enables marketers to use reverse push technology to get information to the customer," Mr. Edelstein said.

Interactive voice response (IVR) and speech technology has improved exponentially in the last 36 months. This enables marketers to use it for many more functions than in the past including handling up-sells and multi-pays. But that's not all.

"IVR can also be used as a brand builder," Mr. Edelstein said. "For example, Lidia Matticchio Bastianich, author of 'Lidia's Family Table,' uses her own voice on the IVR. Customers calling to purchase her products feel a connection."

Streaming video within e-mails and on Web sites, such as used in solutions provided by Eyeblaster, Livemercial  and Webside Direct, enable parallel usage of video footage on DRTV spots and the company site.

"These new technologies allow a repurposing of DRTV production values," Mr. Edelstein said. "They can be used on Web sites, in-store kiosks, on iPods or other portable devices and/or on interactive TV, allowing the cost of production to be amortized across different media."

Ultimately, it's all about using technology to know your customer.

"The more you know about your customer, the more effective you'll be at developing a relationship," Mr. Edelstein said. "Good relationships mean you retain customers, and retention leads to greater revenue, which is what it's all about."

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