Column: Internet unicasting the marketing medium of future

The Internet is making one-to-one marketing, or unicast, a force to be reckoned with.

In the old days, broadcasting was the way to market; TV, radio and newspaper ads sent the message to the greatest number of people. Then target marketing came into its own. Marketers would identify a target group and direct their message via letterbox drops to selected neighbourhoods or ads in specialist publications. Now, with the Internet, one-to-one marketing, or unicast, is set to become a force to be reckoned with.

Personal marketing is not new. However, the Internet makes it easier and cheaper. Already the main international players are developing personalised versions of the news. Pointcast, Excite and Infoseek all have personal versions where you enter your interests and details and they provide you with customised versions of news, events and, more importantly, products. Yep, if they know who you are, they can market directly to you.

Telecom, Woolworths, Courier Post and BNZ are doing the same thing here with their new “Great New Zealand Shopping Mall”. In order to use the mall, you register your details. Then every time you make a purchase, your buying patterns go into a central data repository. This data is then used to build your personal profile.

If they see that you buy 10 rolls of film each week, they can offer you a discount on developing. If they see that you buy canned spaghetti, they can offer you a special on fresh pasta. It is a great way to cross-sell or up-sell. When you log into the mall, personalised messages pop up informing you of discounts, specials, announcements and so forth. It is a marketer’s dream.

Woolworths has been doing a similar project in the South Island for some time, so it is not new to the concept. With the Internet, however, the level of interactivity has been raised a few notches. The Mall plans to bring in more shops, such as pharmacies and travel, if the pilot proves to be successful.

Knowing who uses your home page, what they look at, how long they stay and where they go can be valuable too. The easiest way to capture this information is to ask people to register with their details. Online contests and drawings work well. But you can track “click-through” even without the active participation of the readers using a Web log.

Most ISPs provide various levels of user statistics. Webmasters, for instance, has a nice reporting facility. However, if you really want to see how your site is doing, you might want to use a third-party site-logging software package. A useful list with reviews and links to the software sites is available at http://www.earthlight.co.nz/cws/stat.html.

An excellent product has been developed by an Auckland firm, Creative CGi. Called Site Tracker (http://www.creative.co.nz/software/sitetracker/home.htm), the program monitors and displays a variety of usage statistics in both tabular and graphical formats. One nice feature is that it can take the statistics and automatically transfer them to a database for further analysis and action. Plus, since it is a local product, personal support is an inexpensive phone call away. Check it out.

Personal marketing will be a growth area for the Internet. The opportunities to build and act upon definitive customer databases are unlimited. And if done correctly, personal marketing can be seen as a service to be desired. It’s up to the direct marketing industry to make sure it is not abused.

(Parent is an Internet consultant with Creative Data. He can be contacted by email at pjp@iprolink.co.nz or via Creative Data’s Web page at http://www.cd.co.nz/cd.)

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