June 25, 2008

Matchback Bias

You're probably partnering with your list organization, data warehouse vendor, or co-op on the never-ending scope of matchback analytics.

The goal, of course, is to prove that catalog marketing is a vital piece of the modern marketing puzzle. You're trying to truly understand the ROI of this activity. That's why you try so hard to attribute every online order back to one of the dozens of catalogs you mailed in the past year.

Now let me ask you this.

Do you go through the same effort to attribute every phone order back to the original online source?

You don't?

I met with a business that is doing just that. They combine their web analytics tool and their matchback analytics platform to attribute phone orders back to the online marketing activity (which is usually organic/natural search) responsible for driving the phone order.

Why is it that our industry is so bent on proving that catalog marketing drives online orders, but doesn't invest the energy to prove that online marketing drives phone (and store) orders?

Our view of the world is biased, folks. And that bias favors co-ops, printers, the USPS, the paper industry, and the list rental/exchange industry.

Your thoughts?


  1. Anonymous9:48 AM

    This post strikes a particular chord (or nerve) with me. My marketing VP sent me an "interesting article" about catalogs driving online traffic and purchases. I was interested until I saw that the whitepaper was from the usps site, and that the "recent study" being discussed was done by usps and comscore. I can't decide how much of it is factual and how much is desperate propaganda, but it doesn't matter because the leadership of my company is running with it.
    When key individuals at companies who have or are starting catalog programs read things like, "Your customers rely on catalogs now more than ever to shop at your web site." from authoritative sources, it suddenly doesn't matter what the analyst says, or what catalog choice is doing. (Can you sense the frustration?) Yet people like yourself, people who find the real answers in real data, are sending quite a different message.

    It's up to the "data people" in each organization to swim upstream, put in the extra effort, and follow the example of businesses like the one you described. You're right; most people aren't focused on optimizing the "multi" in multichannel.

  2. Good job of looking at the source of the whitepaper (USPS).

    Do enough research on these papers and articles, and you'll get a good feel for the reason the articles are being published.

    Just let the data tell you the truth!

  3. Anonymous1:21 PM

    Even as someone who is responsible for providing many of what you call "biased matchbacks," I agree with you whole-heartedly. Merchants should be investing in the capabilities to better understand the interdependence and interaction of their marketing investments with the goal to drive improved ROAS - regardless of the ultimate mix.

    I can see how you would do this if the search-driven caller was registered and cookied on the website, but I can't see the path to identifying anonymous searches. Any insight without giving away secrets?

    You could proabably do the same analysis by capturing POS transactions and matching them back to search-driven web visits.

    Casey Carey, Abacus

  4. A registered and cookied customer will provide more than enough insight to allow catalog marketers to absolutely re-think the whole marketing process.

    There are analytical methods that can be used to correlate cookied and uncookied behavior --- strictly estimational in nature, but more valuable than what is being done today in the catalog industry.

    Our industry spent the past decade trying to prove the value in catalog marketing. The next decade must focus on proving the value in marketing in general. And that is hard for a cataloger to think about, given the heritage of the catalog in most organizations.


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