EBay and GSI Commerce execs discuss online marketing spending at eTail 2007

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PALM DESERT, CA -- Integrating online marketing campaigns into online and offline projects is a challenge that many retailers face, according to an eTail 2007 panel titled "Justifying Your Online Marketing Spend With Efficient Offline Marketing Budget Tracking."

The panel involved a discussion between Gary Briggs, eBay chief marketing officer and senior vice president, and Jeff McCall, vice president of client services at GSI Commerce, about the benefits of marketing online.

"The benefit for us in terms of understanding search, is that we can really track what customers are doing," Mr. Briggs said.

Mr. McCall agreed, saying that marketing is not separate from the online and should be connected to the user experience. In his opinion, retailers need to be more focused on the future and shift attention to the online marketing channels.

"I think that tabs [and] newspaper circulars are hard to track, and all of my clients are trying to get away from this and [get] online," he said.

But it's not just about moving everything online. Integrating a multichannel marketing campaign has helped to build the eBay brand. The online marketplace uses search, e-mail and other online channels in conjunction with catalogs and mailers.

"We see ebbs and flows in how distinctive we are as a brand, so we think a lot of it has to do with messaging to your top buyers and your top sellers, and recognizing that each media has a purpose in building the brand," Mr. Briggs said. "A lot of it depends on the era of your business and how to spend your dollars based on where your company is coming from."

EBay is an online channel that often gets to beta-test MSN and Yahoo's new products. The firm also tests its own new products and marketing endeavors to determine whether it is valuable to the customer. EBay is a worldwide company and uses different tactics with different countries to optimize marketing mixes.

"Online is so fast -- we learn things in days, if not hours," Mr. Briggs said. "With online testing, we'll learn things in a matter of days; in offline it takes time. We've seen things hold up over time to be true."

When it comes to agency analytics, GSI Commerce is always trying to incorporate the results of campaigns into the overall marketing strategy.

"I would explain analytics [as] one continuum, from customer acquisition to customer retention," Mr. McCall said. "Analytics is just one part of the puzzle. We have to talk to the customer and do interactive testing to understand what the customer is looking for."

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