The Perfect Pair1 Dec, 2008 By: Bridget McCrea Response
Brands and DRTV companies continue to maximize the Internet as a selling channel
Kind of like peanut butter-and-jelly or a horse-and-carriage, direct response and the Internet go together so well that, these days, you'd be hard-pressed to find a DRTV campaign that doesn't include a strong online presence. In fact, everyone — from traditional brand advertisers to pure DRTV players — is maximizing the cost-effective, accountable and flexible sales channel that the Web provides.
Jim Barnthouse, associate vice president at Livemercial Inc., in Valparaiso, Ind., says the reasons for creating an online presence to compliment a DRTV campaign are compelling. For starters, it's relatively cheaper than selling products in a brick-and-mortar retail store. And, it provides an easy platform for doing what DRTV does best: educate consumers, through demonstrations, testimonials and other tools, about the key features and benefits of the product.
"If people want to know more about a product these days, they're going to look for it online," says Barnthouse, who expects online sales to overtake toll-free telephone sales for DR marketers at some point. "We get closer to that every year, with about 40 percent of people buying online right now rather than calling in."
There's also a touchy-feely aspect to the online buying experience that a phone operator can't provide, according to Barnthouse. "People feel a closer relationship with you if they're on your Web site," he says, "than they do when they're talking to someone on the phone who they know probably doesn't work directly for the company."
Brands have caught onto these benefits, with most of them using the Web to augment their DRTV efforts. "They know that everyone has to be online these days," says Barnthouse. "In fact, if you saw an infomercial on TV - and if you then went online and couldn't find the company's Web site - you probably wouldn't have much trust in the product or the company. Put simply, if you aren't online, you aren't taken seriously."
Bob Greenstone, CEO at San Diego-based Permission Interactive, concurs, and estimates that 99 percent of firms using DRTV also have an online presence for their campaigns. "We still test shows without the Web component included," says Greenstone, "but we try to discourage that, namely because the Web can represent 50 to 60 percent of a campaign's sales right now."
On the brand side of things, Greenstone says companies like Murad, SlimShots and Arm & Hammer have all successfully melded their DR efforts with a strong online component. He sees factors like high fuel costs and the fact that people of all ages are now buying on the Web playing a key role in this trend. "My mom is 82 years old," says Greenstone, "and she buys on the Web all the time."
Arm & Hammer is just one of many major marketers utilizing a combination of DRTV and online direct response to maximize a campaign s effectiveness.
Other major branders that are rounding out their DR campaigns with the Internet include WD-40 and Proctor & Gamble, both of which have worked with Bridgeport, Conn.-based Liquid Focus Direct. Ken Osborn, president and CEO, says that while marketers have picked up on the synergy between the two advertising mediums, not all of them are maximizing the collaboration.
"The offline medium drives a lot more awareness and a lot more interest, but the online side is where many of companies miss the boat," says Osborn, who advises clients to consider their DRTV and online efforts on a campaign-by-campaign basis. Some products, for example, might warrant the development of multiple "micro sites," aimed at different audiences, while others may include the ability to conduct market research through A/B testing (the testing of different price points for the same product).
"We can use the Web to determine factors like the elasticity of demand," says Osborn, a self-proclaimed "business school guy" who is often ribbed about his economic jargon. "Put simply, companies can use the Web as a multi-variety testing tool and, in doing so, create a unique and defined customer interaction that goes beyond basic direct response."