The #1 Thing Offline Marketers Need To Know When They’re Marketing Online…

Trisha Lynde says “I attended one of your webinars last week. At the end, someone asked what you thought was THE most important thing for traditional direct marketers to do (we’re a privately held business that sells primarily through the mail — catalogs, flyers, postcards, and the like.)  Before you could answer, I got disconnected and was unable to reconnect.  WHAT WAS THE ANSWER?  I AM DYING TO KNOW.”

One of the biggest mistakes that traditional direct marketers make — especially catalogers — is that they don’t separate direct/no referrer traffic from everything else.

If you mail; have sales reps; do outbound telemarketing; advertise on the radio/TV; or do anything else offline, YOU’VE GOT TO SEGREGATE YOUR TRAFFIC.   (This traffic separation thing applies to pure-plays as well but that’s a completely different discussion.)

For the most part, online and offline users behave differently.  (Oftentimes, they behave VERY differently.) 

Most web analytics folks don’t talk about it because frankly, they just don’t know anything about it.

Offline users who visit your website tend to have very different AAUS (active average user sessions); user paths; and/or drills and page visits.  The time spent per page often varies dramatically.  (Depending on how your site is set up.)

In many cases, offline users tend to come in, look around and then get out.   In others, they tend to spend an inordinate amount of time on your site – basically struggling to find something that they know should be there.   So, unless you get them to the right place rather quickly, their page views tend to be higher OR lower than average.  Same with AAUS.

Bottom line: If you are sending offline users online, you need to look at where they come in and where they leave.  You also want to look at how many pages they look at AND most important, you need to get a good idea of what they are looking for while they are there.

If you are a cataloger, look closely to see if they end up on your catalog ordering page.  A lot of times, offline users can’t find these pages because they think that CATALOG QUICK ORDER is the place where you’d order a catalog.  Not order FROM a catalog, but order a catalog itself.  (That’s why “ORDERING FROM A CATALOG?” typically works better.)

The most critical thing you can do with an offline user who comes online is to collect their e-mail address.  It’s important that you try to capture their e-mail on EVERY view of the site, not just on the bottom.  (Once you get the address, all but one of the capture boxes should disappear.)

You also want to make sure that you put the phone number all over the place, especially in the header (at the top), footer (at the bottom) and in the righthand column.  The phone number and contact information should be prominent throughout the ordering/checkout process.   This is far more important for offline users than one might think. 

You can also consider a catfish.  (Look at for a good example of a catfish.)  A catfish pops up on the bottom of the first view of your site on entrance.  Catfishes are one of the most successful (and least used) capturing tools.  You can use your catfish to welcome the user from an offline channel (if you have an idea of what it is); collect his e-mail address; or bring him directly to your quick order page.

The more you know about how the different types of users behave, the better.  Generally speaking, targeted offline users will convert better than online users, if your site is tailored for them.  (Employing a streamlined checkout, for example.)   This is especially true if the user is using your website as their preferred ordering channel (read: instead of the telephone.)


For the record, direct/no referrer is not a completely pure indication of whether the traffic is coming from an offline source.  Someone can come in direct/no referrer having remembered your URL from an e-mail, a friend, a past visit, etc.  However, it is a solid indication and with web stuff, you are NEVER going to get 100%.  No matter how much time and money you throw at it, perfection is not a possibility.  So, go with the trends and indicators.


  1. Mike McCormick says

    Hi Amy,
    Thanks for this. Love the line “… perfection is not a possibility.” I’ve always thought of it as “the perfect is the enemy of the good.” i.e. endless tinkering to make things perfect gets in the way of running a business.

  2. says

    I lve reading your Qlog, Amy, because I know everyone really doing online commerce should do this stuff.

    I’ve never had a catfish bring me to an ordering page, nor have i had any site try to bring me back.

    A few weeks ago I was on about ten websites, looking for a gift. When I was about to leave, nothing tried to stop me, and offer me up a discount to buy, nothing, nada.

    So keep up the good work, and hopefully some of these huge ecommerce sites will get the message…get and keep me there, and give me an offer to buy now!

  3. says

    Amy, silly question maybe, but how do you KNOW which are your ‘offline’ visitors? Landing page you name in mailing? Site behavior (the AAUS you mention)? Referral page they enter from? Specific discount codes (when they get to your shop)? Absence of cookies?
    Or do you aim for your homepage to accommodate as many different types of visitors as possible and hope for the best? Is a catfish something you hope a new visitor may use, and an experienced reader will ignore?
    Again, I’m sure this is a silly question, but reading your (GREAT!) article just got me wondering about this. I realized that because I’m lacking technical know-how, I might be missing out on such optimization for this distinct, inexperienced group of potential clients.

    • says

      Thanks for writing Elja! It’s nice to have you here. Definitely not a silly question. Direct/no referrer traffic definitely does not indicate 100% that they are an offline user but it’s a good place to start. These are people who typed in your URL directly so they typically either know you or have been to your site before. When you look at your direct/no referrer group it will NEVER be all offline people and if you’re a pure-play, it won’t be any/many. However, if you are a catalog or traditional direct marketer and you set up a special URL for offline traffic and then compare it to the direct/no referrer traffic, you will often see very significant trends.

      As for homepages, I do recommend that companies use different versions for separate groups of people as they respond to varied things. Offline users, for example, often respond much better to all types of pop-ups, whereas online folks tend to respond well to only the more sophisticated types (like sidewinders and catfishes.)

  4. says

    Segregation practice is an excellent idea.Once you know who is the real buyers your task becomes easier. Also people buy when they are ready not when we build the site.

  5. says

    Takes time to convert visitors to actual buyers.
    Need to be patient and keep in tpuch with your visitors need to make your website more personal.
    not necesary to make an excellent website its ok if its getting the message across.
    thanks for sharing your ideas …

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