ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- On a little computer screen in a climate-controlled room at Catalina Marketing headquarters here, visitors can monitor the flow of retail sales data from a single checkout lane at any of 9,000 supermarkets across the country.
On this particular occasion, the lines of data scrolling up the screen in real time indicate that a shopper, who has purchased cat food at a store more than 1,000 miles away, is receiving a Checkout Coupon for a competing brand.
Another byte of information received. Another coupon delivered: Chalk up another little success for in-store marketing.
No where is the promise of in-store marketing communications more tangible than in this computer room. By tapping the flow of information into these computers, Catalina's original business premise has been dramatically extended to encompass a host of in-store marketing services, all of which stand on the basic technological platform of the Checkout Coupon.
"We provide information-based marketing services, not just coupon distribution," says George Off, president and CEO of Catalina, which topped $113 million in annual revenue in is last fiscal year ended March 31.
That figure has been reached by the rapid-fire addition of new Catalina "products," as Off likes to call them, to the company over its eleven-year history.
Catalina's UPC-based offerings include the Checkout Coupon, pay-for-performance programs, Checkout Message (which delivers a targeted advertising handbill through the checkout printer), and Checkout Prizes, which delivers instant winner notification to shoppers for in-store contests.
The company has also invested in a joint venture to develop electronic coupon clearing, Catalina Electronic Clearing Services. It is developing a host of information-based products to take advantage of a growing interest in targeted marketing. Most recently it announced a collaboration with telephone card issuer, Innovative Telecom, to deliver prepaid long-distance telephone cards to shoppers as a promotional incentive.
All these products reach the consumer in the store. All stand together on a common Catalina Marketing platform of information technology and people skills.
Says Off, "You have to look at skills and talents required to deal with this kind of database information -- skills in the fields of direct-to-consumer, computer analysis, data collection and in how to analyze the data collected. You have to be able to translate that analysis into practical and actionable items for the marketers."
"Take a look at that skill set, I think you'll find Catalina has a pretty good foundation."
As the company extends into its future, Off says, it will continue to keep its focus in the retail store.
"In-store is important in the mix. It is one place nowadays where you can count on your customer to be," he says. "I think that's why in-store advertising has grown in last ten years now. It's phenomenal."
"Another thing about in-store is, it's accountable. If you do something in the store, you can really measure it and measure it well. That's a plus for in-store and a burden. If you have an effective vehicle, then your results will come out fine."
Exciting potential also exists in the extension of heavily-information-based activities like Catalina's Checkout Direct, program, which tracks ATM, credit card and card-program transactions over time to build household shopping profiles for selective targeting.
"It seems to me that retailers and manufacturers alike are taking to the idea of understanding who their customers are, and in particular, identifying their heavy users and treating them differently than light users," he says.