Web-Based Counts Provide Ease, AccuracyWeb-based count and order systems appear poised to transform the list industry as they allow service bureaus to provide list owners, managers and brokers 24-hour access to vital information with speed, ease and accuracy.
"It eliminates a lot of the guesswork and phone tag and dramatically increases productivity," said Mitchell Rubin, president of Applied Information Group, Kenilworth, NJ.
WebOTIS, which stands for Web Order Tracking Interactive System, is AIG's online count and list ordering system. It was launched about a year ago, Rubin said, and an upgrade this spring lets users perform multiple tasks simultaneously on the system.
Among the other systems are ResponSMART by American Computer Group, Tempe, AZ, and a service being developed by KnowledgeBase Marketing Inc., Richardson, TX.
"I think that the future of Web-based systems is very bright," said Chris Montana, vice president of list management at Mokrynski & Associates Inc., Hackensack, NJ, who said that several companies are developing similar systems.
With WebOTIS, list owners with files at AIG are given a password to access their data and can allow list managers and brokers full or partial rights to counts, orders and reports on the system.
As users submit their count requests, they can continue entering additional queries while the system runs the original counts. All queries are saved in the system so that counts can be rerun without re-entering the information. No matter how many times selects are modified, each version is saved for future reference.
Deduping between counts and prior-order omits are done on a name-for-name basis so that clients know exactly how many names are available.
WebOTIS clients can do much more on the system than just get counts. The system also allows them to place orders, check status, approve quantities, track shipping information and check in tapes. The information is saved so that clients have a history of all orders from start to finish.
Reports relating to a mailing can be accessed through WebOTIS. Merge/purge, postage, NCOA, multibuyer and key code reports can be downloaded into Excel spreadsheets.
Rubin said WebOTIS has helped AIG keep up with larger service bureaus.
"We're a small company, and offering this type of service is one way for us to stay competitive and actually win some large accounts from the big companies," he said.
"[Web]OTIS is the man," said Deb Goldstein, president of IDG Communications List Services, Framingham, MA. She has been using WebOTIS since January, when IDG chose AIG as its service bureau for the Penwell list properties. "I haven't found a flaw, and the system has never been down."
Goldstein cited the ease of use and availability of technical support as major reasons for her satisfaction with WebOTIS.
Thomas Castellanos, president of American Computer Group, is equally enthusiastic about ResponSMART, or Responsive Selection Management Analysis and Reporting Tool, his company's Web-based application.
"We see the Internet as a great tool to help brokers, managers and owners to make key business decisions," he said.
ACG has been working toward the current Web-based system for five years, Castellanos said.
ResponSMART functions similarly to WebOTIS in obtaining counts and placing orders. Passwords are issued to designated users for access to as much or as little information as the client chooses. Simple reports are available on the site, but more complex reports are sent to clients as HTML files via e-mail. Many list owners are apprehensive about having such proprietary information posted on the Web, Castellanos said.
"The system is particularly good for end-users who need the flexibility to make changes," said Glenn Freedman, president/CEO of LIST Inc., Great Neck, NY, who has been working with ACG for four years and started using the online count system this year. "Managers can retrieve counts while brokers are on the phone."
Selects can be modified as many times as necessary to reach a desired count, Freedman added, which saves time and keeps customers happy.
KnowledgeBase Marketing also is developing a comprehensive Web-based count and order service for its clients.
"We see that our customers desire a browser-based interface to us," said Larry Eppard, chief technology officer at KBM. He expects to make a formal announcement this summer.
KBM can supply its clients with counts, some reporting and downloads of their own data over the Web using generic applications that are customized based on what the user wants. Eppard encourages clients to choose a browser-based system, but he acknowledged that some are hesitant about sending sensitive information over the Internet.
WebOTIS and ResponSMART are very secure, Rubin and Castellanos said. Both said security was a top priority in the development of their systems.
They agreed that clients with small files and limited selections may not require Web-based systems at all, but such systems could still benefit their list managers and brokers. Customers with large databases benefit greatly.
"We basically build solutions based on what our customers want," Eppard said.