August 2006 - Backend Business

The Power of Online Reporting

By Bill Kyle

You have the “front-end” and you have the “backend” when it comes to the outsource suppliers you will need as a DRTV marketer. Production, media planning/buying and campaign management, if applicable, comprise the front-end. The inbound call center, the fulfillment company, the customer service center and the payment processing functions comprise the backend.

Many marketers want to run as “virtual” companies these days. What does that mean? It means that the marketer’s core competency is finding products that will sell and marketing them. It means, conversely, that the goal is to avoid getting bogged down or distracted with internal systems, personnel problems and warehouses, all of which are expensive and time-consuming undertakings-think software, payroll and rent.

But, if you are going to operate in this modern day, streamlined, fashion, you must have vendors you believe in and you must have access to information. Let’s concentrate on the information side of this.

Marketers of any sort crave information. But not just any information, it has to be information one can play with, run “what if” scenarios on, and drill down to see what is really going on in detail. I’m not in the media business, so I’m not going to get into the information on calls and sales by station bought. Rather, I want to discuss briefly the information about orders, shipping, inventory, and freight and, most importantly, continuity and returns.

The basic information you’ll need to see easily on the web consists of:

Orders and shipping — How do orders shipped compare with orders received? What are the reasons for the orders that are not shipping?

Inventory — Orders will not be processed without inventory of the part number or the kit on hand. You have to be looking at your recent or seasonal run rates and projecting inventory required based on your upcoming media buys.

Freight — Fulfillment companies will not ship without having the freight money in an account that can be tapped. You have to be looking at this just as with the inventory.

You, as the marketer, have to be able to look at what is going on in all of these categories. There is no excuse for running out of either inventory or freight money if you are utilizing the tools that are (or should be) right there, with 24/7 access from any computer.

Here are the areas where the “rubber meets the road.” Everyone knows pretty well how many orders were received, from where and how many shipped. But what attention is being paid to continuity and where, when and why it falls off and you lose the customer?

Similarly, what attention is being paid to the number of people returning the product they ordered and, going along with that, how well is the customer service center doing at saving sales and preserving continuity legs? This is hot stuff! If you are not all over this as the marketer, you are missing the boat!

Continuity. Ideally, what should you be able to look at online? With continuity, it is not as simple as what percentage of customers who take continuity fall off at what continuity leg. You can be analyzing the falloff by call center if you are using multiple call centers. By call center orders vs. web orders. By TV or radio station, if the fulfillment company is receiving this information from the call center in the download. That would also allow for looking at this by geography. Changing the filters you are provided with can do all this. Online, you can “slice and dice” this information any which way, for any period you want to study. The results can be very revealing!

Returns. This is a similar situation. If you are not associating your returns with the offers they relate to and the original timeframe, you probably do not have an accurate handle on your returns. You don’t measure returns by the month they come in. You have to measure them as a subset of the original order. Your fulfillment company can make this information available to you online.

Similarly, save the sale and save the continuity leg success or lack thereof in the customer call center has to be related back to the original order and studied as to the success rates of various offers. What is the most effective offer or offers? What saves the most sales at the least incremental cost or at the lowest “giveback?”

This is all data to be analyzed and conclusions drawn from. You don’t want reports, you want data to be able to manipulate or customize. This can be attained at your convenience-from home, from work, from the road. You can even access data weekdays or weekends. It is all there on the web, and you do not have to have a “cast of thousands” on your payroll to produce it or keep track of it. This is the power of outsourcing and online reporting.

Bill Kyle vice president of marketing for Moulton Logistics in Van Nuys, Calif. He can be reached at (818) 997-1800, ext. 226, or via e-mail at [email protected].


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