PC-Less Households Present Fat Target

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Slowing computer sales have marketers eyeing the households still without them.


A recent study shows the opportunity is certainly there - 39 percent of U.S. homes are without PCs, a number unchanged from a year ago. As a result, Dell Computer, the No. 1 PC maker, tries to send catalogs to PC-less households. The study, released last month by market research firm Odyssey, San Francisco, consists of national random sample surveys of 2,500 households that are representative of all U.S. households and is released every March and September.


Tapping into that market is a challenge that can be overcome, list professionals said, and the payoff can be big.


"It's not really one market. You need to take that market and subdivide it. There could be five or 10 different segments in that noncomputer-owner market," said Robert M. Budlow, senior vice president and general manager at Marketing Services Group Inc., New York. "Then once you go into that subset then you need to build your strategy."


The first thing several list professionals recommended was a tactic that any good marketer would use -- look at the existing buyers on their firm's house file.


"Work with the client to understand the profile of the buyers of say the entry level computer package and most recent first-time buyers," said Helen Graham, vice president of self-reported data at Experian, Orange, CA.


Though it is important to know who the current buyers are, it is tricky to target nonbuyers, according to another list executive.


A good way to start would be by doing a ZIP tape analysis and ZIP model for your house file, according to Roy Schwedelson, CEO of Worldata/WebConnect, Boca Raton, FL.


"Then I would know out of the 40,000 ZIP codes in the country, which ZIP codes yield me nine out of 10 people hypothetically having computers," he said. "I would have broken that into 20 deciles so I'd know the top 2,000 ZIP codes, the second 2,000 ZIP codes and so forth. Based on penetration and my success ratio, it would get down to a profile of individuals in areas that may not have computers."


Of course, the next step after profiling and modeling would be to find prospect lists to test.


One source of such names would be files with propensity data available.


Experian's BehaviorBank contains self-reported consumer data in categories including computer ownership and Internet use.


"We have built models to extrapolate self-reported data across our compiled files," Graham said. "Based on our model we can say that you are either highly likely, likely, not likely or highly unlikely to have a propensity for that characteristic."


Using the BehaviorBank data to score its compiled InSource file, Experian has 10.5 million records of households that are not likely or highly unlikely to have a PC at home.


On top of that, other selection criteria such as mail-order buyer, credit card holder, income and home ownership can be added to further target the offer.


For example, 2 million of the 10.5 million prospects mentioned above are reported to be mail-order buyers, Graham said.


As with any type of offer testing results would then be analyzed to get a clearer picture of the profile of a first-time computer buyer and the testing and rollout process would continue from there.


"What we're really trying to find out is not necessarily the specific lists that these people are on but the specific lifestyles these people have and then you market to the lifestyle," Budlow said.


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