(Notice: If you are an entrepreneurial inventor, software engineer, media analyst, a person in the DRTV industry or otherwise looking for an interesting new business idea, keep reading. If not, you might be bored with this one. Don’t say I didn’t warn you)
A decade ago, I pioneered bringing the DRTV (Infomercial) industry online. Under my watch, the company I ran was among the first in the world to conduct E-commerce transactions driven by television infomercials. We were the first in our industry to use video on a website (this was YEARS before YouTube!), and we were the first to integrate analytics to understand what our customers were and weren’t doing on our site.
Yes, times were good, and we were generating millions of dollars in revenue online while many of our competitors were still trying to figure out “this newfangled interweb thing”.
The one big problem we had…how could we effectively track and attribute orders generated by offline media to online transactions?
You see, back when DRTV transactions were done only by “800 number”, it was easy. You simply assigned a different 800 number to each TV station or network, tracked all orders by 800 number, and PRESTO, you knew exactly how much money you made on each and every TV station and media buy. Instant trackability and accountability…the lifeblood of direct marketing.
Now, throw a website URL into the mix, and that all goes out the window. Thousands of orders flooded our website, but we had no way of telling our media department which media buys brought the customers and which didn’t.
My colleagues and I tried every solution we could think of, including:
- Different URL’s for every station – A big campaign could use hundreds of different TV stations. There was no effective way to secure enough “easy to remember” URL’s to make this effective.
- URL slashes (www.TVproduct.com/tvstation) – That didn’t work because most people don’t remember or even write down what is “after the slash”
- Asking the customer – That didn’t work. All the customer knows is that they saw it on TV. No way do they know what TV station they saw it on
- Offer codes – Even making it a “discount code” and essentially paying to get the data from the customer proved less than 50% effective
- Geo-targeting with time allocation – We were able to identify some of the orders based on time and zip code for local broadcast stations airing a commercial, but this method did not work for cable ad buys
These are just a few of the long list of solutions we tried. But we never have found the magic bullet.
For the past ten years, this situation has been a dilemma. Hundreds of millions of dollars in media spending budgets are at stake, and an entire industry is playing a guessing game.
While thumbing through my DRTV/Infomercial industry magazines this weekend, I noticed articles in each competing magazine which essentially said the same thing…the multi-billion dollar DRTV industry needs a “Offline to online” tracking solution desperately. Quotes and links from each article are below:
“If the leaders of this industry band together to figure out a new paradigm for direct-to-consumer advertising, the reward may be the entire universe of marketing and advertising itself.”
Finding a Solution to Eroding Attribution
Author: Rick Petry
Pub: Electronic Retailer magazine – July 2009
“Imagine how much further we could take our campaigns if we were able to accurately track online response back to originating TV media.”
Media Zone: Measuring Online Response — We Can Do Better
Author: Dick Wechsler
Pub: Response Magazine – July 2009
There is a famous quote in business that goes something like this; “Find a need, then fill it”. Well, I’ve found a need. But I don’t have the time or expertise to fill it.
Therefore, I’m posting this as a free gift to all entrepreneurial inventors, software engineers, media analysts, or anyone else who might want to solve a huge problem plaguing an entire multi-billion dollar industry. And you’ll probably make a ton of money in the process.
Oh, and please remember me when you hit it big with this idea!