Outlook 2006: Editor's Note

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Welcome to DM News' Outlook 2006. We started doing the Outlook supplements two years ago to provide a big-picture view of the various direct and interactive segments. This year, we've rounded up a larger group of experts and had them focus on their areas with technology in mind. All are as thought provoking as ever.

Cataloging's Don Libey ponders the future of the catalog and concludes that its function is changing from selling to driving consumers online, where the selling now takes place. "If its value is to drive sales that occur online, perhaps the concept and present form of the catalog are obsolete," Don writes. For his answers to this predicament, you'll have to turn to page 30 and see what else our favorite futurist has to say about the Internet.

Even consumer packaged goods marketers are taking notice of what the˙Internet offers: the ability to build a relationship and keep the dialogue going. Bridge Worldwide's Jay Woffington says the Internet is the ultimate control medium, letting the consumer decide "what, when, where and how they engage with a brand."

Yes, the consumer is definitely in control.

Why? Technology has put consumers in the driver's seat, Avenue A/Razorfish's Clark Kokich says, giving them information, options, power - and if they aren't interested, they can tune you out with pop-up blockers, filters or just start another search. More than two-thirds of consumers research a product online before buying it in a store, according to a study commissioned by the Electronic Retailing Association.

As you read through the commentary from this year's Outlook, you'll come upon many new ideas as well as several familiar ones ("Test. Test. Test."). Also, be careful with the data you store and use. Too many data breaches have had nothing to do with marketing data, but that won't matter when Congress comes calling. Lawmakers don't understand and don't care about the nuances, and they'll paint in big, broad legislative strokes that won't be good for business.

Change is coming from everywhere - from technology, from rising costs, from new laws and regulations, even from standardization processes at the U.S. Postal Service. Embrace it. As Direct Media's Linda Huntoon writes, "We survive and prosper because, for the most part, we are innovative and proactive and find ways to turn issues into opportunities."

Happy reading.


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