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Are offline pushes important to e-commerce?

Even businesses that buy and sell online often also have a presence in offline collateral. Our experts debate the value of trying to drive e-commerce in traditional channels

Jae Yim

GM, managed sites, Cooking.com
Ten years of online marketing and e- commerce experience

No. We’ve never given a lot of thought or attention to promoting the site with offline channels. The problem with offline is that it is much more difficult to tie spending directly to ROI and measure the direct impact. We avoid offline channels when promoting online sales because we know that our buyers are already very comfortable browsing and buying online. We don’t have much interest in finding them offline as it’s difficult to distinguish where the sales are coming from. Online marketing is much more scalable.

One of the areas in which we have found recent success driving traffic to the site is content, such as our newsletters, and search engine optimization for our content pages. People come to our site for our high-quality recipes. There are several areas on the site where we encourage people to sign up for our “Food for Thoughts” newsletters, so that they can receive recipes and our product offers to their inboxes. It’s very important to ensure that the content is updated by the season. We want to make sure that the content is as relevant as possible to our buyers. We may also launch a celebrity cooking section on the site.

Additional channels that we use are search and affiliate marketing. Again, relevance is important in these areas. We looked very carefully at which categories we felt we could lead before setting our search marketing strategy. Rather than being a place for every buyer, we thought about which products we had strengths and where we wanted to be identified as experts.

Michael Buck

Director, global SMB online, Dell
Has managed various software and marketing channels for Dell

Yes. There’s a huge symmetry in using offline to promote our online sales channels. We find that people are often coming to the site from things they’ve seen in the offline world or they are leaving the site to go offline and call one of the call centers to order. For us, it’s a fine balance between how much budget you want to allocate to demand generation and what that vehicle mix will look like.

Catalogs are a key category for us. The way that we send catalogs is what is really important. It’s not about making sure that everyone is getting the full catalog every month. We are looking at shopping behaviors and purchase history to help guide us to send the exactly right catalog to a buyer. If we know that someone has purchased a laptop, we know they aren’t going to buy another one soon. But they may want software or peripheral equipment, such as a keyboard or a desk lamp.

We spend a lot of our time looking at life-cycle management and understanding the sequence of needs for each of our buyer types. Customers would be very upset if they received an offer for something that they had recently purchased or something that wasn’t compatible with the system they had recently bought on our Web site. The level of customer personalization has really changed. Gone are the days when you might address a printed piece with “Dear purchaser.” You have to know the name, title, language and key challenges of whoever you are selling to, whether you reach them offline or online.


While our experts vary on how they are using the offline/online mix, they both point out that relevance is what drives purchasing. Understanding where your buyers expect to receive offers is just as important as targeting the offers themselves. For some businesses, offline may be part of this mix.

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