Response Media's eVguide to Reach Online Buyers as Package Insert

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In yet another sign that offline direct marketing is key to boosting e-commerce, Response Media Products Inc. in October will launch the eVguide, an advertising-filled booklet of 16 to 24 pages that will be inserted in product packages mailed to active online buyers.


Unlike mass-market, unsolicited mailings such as Val-Pak or SuperCoups, the eVguide co-op effort claims to offer retailers an alternative to marketing through catalog buyer or Internet service provider files. Half- or full-page ads in the 4 1/2-by-7-inch booklet are intended to serve as lead-generation vehicles for retailers targeting affluent, current online shoppers.


"We knew that the best possible response for an e-merchant's offer would be gained by reaching 100 percent hotline e-commerce buyers," said Ingrid Brown, vice president of promotional media at Response Media.


"When you consider that only roughly 20 percent of the population actually completes transactions online, it is still an elusive audience to capture," Brown said. "eVguide addresses the right target and the right timing -- right after they've made a purchase online."


The 22-year-old Response Media, Atlanta, offers consumer and business-to-business direct marketing services -- including interactive marketing, promotional media offerings and list brokerage -- to clients in the packaged goods, catalog, retail, publishing, credit and finance, hi-tech and Internet arenas. The eVguide is its first guide.


Online marketers such as OmahaSteaks.com, DayTimer.com, PlanetRx.com, Chipshot.com, eHobbies.com, UBL.com, allwall.com and SmarterKids.com will advertise in the booklet and will distribute it via orders shipped to pre-qualified customers.


At least 500,000 eVguides -- which stands for e-Value -- will be distributed each quarter. Response Media will gain revenue on ad sales. Participants distributing more than 50,000 eVguides will gain special, unspecified discounts on ad rates.


Response Media claims that the eVguide is cheaper and more effective for customer acquisition than other direct marketing or interactive vehicles such as mass-market package inserts, banner ads, direct mail and e-mail messages. The company said it made sure its insert merchant participants guaranteed that the booklet would reach proven online buyers.


"Omaha Steaks and DayTimer, which do such an enormous print catalog business, had to assure us that they could selectively insert eVguide only into those packages ordered online," Brown said.


"In fact, since Omaha Steaks does so much of a gift business, they have also assured us that they can insert eVguide into online-buyer packages that are going to the actual buyer, not to a gift recipient," she said. "This is important, since we know the buyer ordered online, but do not know if the gift recipient is an online buyer as well."


It is the advertiser's responsibility to encourage consumers to visit the retail site. Advertisers have control over their ads' content and design, which can include corporate logos, promotions and photographs.


Credit card issuer NextCard, which is an advertiser in the debut booklet, is aware that value-added offers are as critical as inclusion in the guide and riding piggyback on outgoing online orders.


"We've told advertisers that they must have an added-value, traffic-driving offer," Brown said. For instance, she said, "NextCard is participating with us and is offering all eVguide recipients who get a NextCard $25 in credits to their account for any product or service ordered through the eVguide."


To broaden its appeal, eVguide will also have an online sibling. The site, www.evguideonline.com, will launch in the fourth quarter. It will target online shoppers for contests and promotions and will allow consumers to rate their best and worst Internet shopping experiences -- market feedback data that then can be relayed to retailers.


"Advertisers and insert merchants have the opportunity to generate custom opt-in leads through our registration process and gain primary market research right from [the] consumer's mouth on their specific customer service pros and cons vs. their competitors," said Josh Perlstein, company vice president of interactive media.


Response Media will allow big advertisers and insert merchants to post offers for free on the site in addition to free inclusion in opt-in e-mails to eVguide customers, in lieu of their involvement with the eVguide booklet's launch.


A key challenge for Response Media, however, is tapping advertisers for its booklet.


"We're looking for those who are best in their category," Brown said. "So many businesses are in flux right now. We wanted to make sure that any eVguide advertiser would provide exemplary customer service, would be around for the long term and could provide a real value to online customers."
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