Outlook 2005: Convergence Experience Happened Already

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My father read the newspaper while he watched television, and my mother always had a magazine in her lap. Today, Mom may be sitting at her computer and sending e-mails while ABC's "Desperate Housewives" is on. You, of course, already have seen the studies and know from your own experience that 40 percent to 60 percent of TV viewers also are on the Web while they're watching.


The appliances may not have converged yet. The experience has.


DRTV is one area that displays it vividly. This medium has a new, fast-changing relationship with the Web. As an alternative to the toll-free number, the Web offers lower-cost response handling, no intimidating upselling, immediately available information and a depth of knowledge simply not possible in a paper fulfillment kit.


Smart marketers get it. They give viewers the options of a telephone number or a Web address. So, people call to order new exercise equipment. They go to the Web to immediately learn more about a medical condition. They search and see all of the possibilities laid out before them for a new entertainment service. They call for a packet of information about supplementary insurance that they want to pass on to an aging parent. It's all about giving consumers the choice of interacting with the marketer in the way most comfortable for them.


Do consumers use both options? Definitely. Our audits of ID Media experience show that 40 percent to 80 percent of responses to DRTV ads go to the URL versus the phone. The preference to go to the Web certainly is a function of the target audience, but also the choice of the marketer as to which response mechanism to emphasize.


For products and services ranging from financial to high tech to insurance to education to recruitment, we see the same thing: 40 percent to 80 percent of respondents choose the Web.


One of my newest clients, who was a former direct response creative director, has taken the next step of saying, "I not only want to know how response distributes, I want to know how many responses I'm losing if I don't include the Web address, and I want to know more about Web respondents versus those who call."


Too few direct marketers apply their strong, analytical testing disciplines to this new avenue of consumer response handling. And they should, because the cost and customer value implications are huge. While the Web offers cost benefits, the telemarketer provides advantages in upsell and cross-sell. We have seen conversion rates on the Web at 40 percent to 60 percent of what a live operator can achieve, though with certain products, conversion on the Web improves significantly.


The Web also lets marketers do database building or viral friend-get-a-friend much more easily and cost-efficiently than the telemarketing option, and these benefits should be calculated into the cost equation. But no one knows how this all plays out until tests are instituted and the response stream is monitored and analyzed.


A big opportunity also exists to track DRTV response by network, even if it drives to the Web. This is old hat for telemarketing, for which we generally use a different toll-free number for each network being tested. But most marketers let one Web address suffice. When we track by phone, we know that the difference between the worst- and best-performing networks averages 90 percent. We should have that information for Web respondents, too. Too hard, you say? Assigning Web addresses to each network may be easier than getting some toll-free numbers today. When L'Oreal Paris marketed a skin-care product called Refinish, it used different Web addresses (www.trylorealrefinish.com, www.tryrefinish.com, www.refinishyourskin.com) for tracking and analysis. The plethora of domain names gives the marketer not only a tracking option, but another opportunity to drive home the message or offer.


Skillful DRTV practitioners adroitly craft their 60-second spots to move viewers through the attention-interest-desire-action continuum. But if viewers respond via the Web, then what happens? Far too often they find themselves on a corporate site that doesn't look or feel like the spot they just saw and, moreover, is far too hard to navigate to find the offer to which they just responded. Most Web fulfillment remains far less fulfilling than its highly interactive potential.


DRTV and the Web together are the killer app for marketers who seek new, cost-accountable models to engage and inform. Marketers who quickly learn how to integrate the DRTV and Web experiences seamlessly will get a valuable spurt in their return on investment. Maybe even more importantly, they will have a head start in interactive TV. Take a look at today's advanced TV applications, with interactive programming guides, enhanced TV on satellite or cable as well as virtual channels. They look like the Web on TV and sometimes TV on the Web. And that's exactly the point, isn't it?


Lynn Fantom is founding chairwoman/CEO of ID Media, New York, a direct response media services company. E-mail her at lfantom@idmediaww.com.
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