*Jay Walker: Radical Changes for Direct Marketers

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NEW YORK--Direct marketing as it is known today is about to be eclipsed by the Internet revolution, according to Jay Walker, the founder and vice chairman of Priceline.com.


Comparing the Internet to the electrification of the United States and the national rollout of telephone service, the inventor, direct marketer and Internet multimillionaire told a packed luncheon at the Direct Marketing Days in New York Conference yesterday that new technologies are eliminating many of the costs from traditional direct marketing and that the Internet will overhaul the dynamics of companies' interactions with their customers.


After accepting the DMDNY Direct Marketer of the Year Award, which included a $10,000 donation to New York University to fund scholarships for a graduate degree in direct marketing, Walker listed 25 "headlines" proclaiming that various aspects of direct marketing are being made more obsolete by the Internet.


"Postage for catalogs and mailings is now free," he said. "Paper is free. All of printing is free."


Automated customer service centers in which every telephone call can be handled flawlessly and without time constraints also are on the horizon, he said. Test campaigns will be executed in hours rather than weeks, and hybrid transactions will emerge in which every purchase is made cheaper through the piggybacking of marketing messages.


A host of other changes manifested by the Internet also are about to be unleashed, including the ability for customers to fit clothing online - "It's just a data problem," he said - and to pay cash at a local brick-and-mortar store for merchandise purchased online.


"At this time, the direct marketing industry is in the throes of enormous and potent change," he said. "The exciting this is, we're all here to watch it."


Direct marketers, he said, are "ideally suited to handle these changes, because it is still about the customer."
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