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The New Distinction: “Housefile vs. Aquisition” Meets “Brand vs. Non-Brand”

A recent HitWise study on brand search got me thinking about a new twist on an old idea that’s been bouncing around our offices.

Catalogers have traditionally tracked the important distinction in orders from housefile names versus orders from new customers. Retention vs. aquisition. Totally different metrics, and economics, usually different budgets, often different staff.

While this distinction is still important (as the marketing costs and response rates differ so much between the two groups), it is starting to feel a bit dated in the age of search.

We’ve been on the soapbox about the brand vs. non-brand search for years now.

More and more, our clients are thinking hard about how they categorize non-brand searches which generate orders from housefile names. Yes, that customer was on the housefile, but the fact she was searching for a product (rather than for your company directly) suggests that that order was “in play”, and could have just as easily gone to a competitor. We can’t climb into a customer’s head to know for sure, but non-brand searches seem much more incremental than brand searches, regardless of the housefile status of the buyer.

In the good old days, your buyer file was top secret. Many catalogers wouldn’t (don’t) rent those names, hoping to keep the competition out of the house. In the age of search, those buyers are no longer isolated, able to learn about new products only from your catalog.

Today, they’re searching the web before just about every purchase — and thus considering all of your every competitors too.

In a nutshell:

Even from a previous buyer, an order following a non-brand search is likely incremental.

I think that’s an interesting idea.

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  • Alan Rimm-Kaufman
    Alan Rimm-Kaufman founded the Rimm-Kaufman Group...
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