Insight Targets Consumers With E-Catalogs

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A customized electronic catalog complete with photographs sent by e-mail is generating strong initial response for Insight Enterprises Inc., Tempe, AZ.

After several months of testing, the direct marketer of computer products and periphery is building a subscription database for its eCatalog service, which groups consumers with the product categories in which they have expressed interest, and will e-mail those catalogs according to those preferences in the next few weeks.

"Imagine us sending millions and millions of catalogs out, each one of which has been constructed specifically for the interests of each individual consumer," said Brian Burch, senior vice president of marketing at Insight.

During the eCatalog testing, click-through rates have been "upward of 10 percent," Burch said, depending on the audience and the subject matter. Customers can order items directly from the eCatalogs, which are in HTML format and include color illustrations, real-time pricing and links to detailed product information.

"It raises the response rates because what they are receiving is of interest to them," he said, "and it allows us not to get into the spamming situation, where people believe that all we're doing is sending them lots and lots of stuff because it benefits us."

The company has been adding information to its subscriber database based on feedback from its Web site (, data gathered through past purchases and data compiled by the company's telephone sales force.

"We make a million outbound calls a month," Burch said. "What we're doing now is aggressively getting information from prospects."

He said the costs of prospecting for new e-mail addresses would represent the only significant "hard costs" involved in the eCatalog program, which was developed inhouse using proprietary technology that keeps the messages small and doesn't use attachments. In addition to the telephone queries, the company is using a sweepstakes on its Web site to build its subscriber database. Past sweepstakes have included a free trip to the Bowl college football game and a chance to win $10,000 cash or $10,000 worth of computer equipment.

Burch said the company's current database numbers are "in the hundreds of thousands" and expects to reach into the millions through prospecting.

"They are just trying to find another way to reach the consumer," said Dennis Telzrow, an equity analyst with Hoak Breedlove Wesneski, Dallas. "The problem with printing paper catalogs is that they go out of date so fast."

Manufacturers have responded positively to the eCatalogs, Burch said. The program lets Insight trace the sales of each product back to the communication that generated the sale and also facilitates the compilation of product-specific and manufacturer-specific sales data. The eCatalogs also are being made available to Insight's telephone-based sales force, who can customize the pages and e-mail them while on the telephone with clients.

"We're electronically enabling these people to prospect and build relationships via the Internet," Burch said.

The eCatalogs are more cost effective than paper catalogs and generate more response than text-based e-mail communications. Insight has been phasing out its paper catalogs and now uses them only for its small- and medium-sized businesses.

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