Study: 50% of Marketers Make Money From Site

More than half of the direct marketing firms doing business online are seeing positive returns on investment from their Web presence, according to new findings in a survey conducted by the Direct Marketing Association.

In the latest results from its annual State of the E-Commerce Industry Report, the New York-based DMA found that 55 percent of respondents’ Web sites were making a profit, either from direct sales or from the use of information gathered from visitors — such as sales leads.

Of those not currently making a profit from their primary Web site, 55 percent also expect to be making money from their sites within the current year. Seventeen percent estimate having a positive return from their sites in 2003.

The study found that nearly two-thirds of consumer-focused marketers use their Web sites for direct sales, while two-thirds of B2B marketers’ Web sites aim for lead generation. Consumer sites, on average, also place heavy emphasis on using their site to perform customer service functions; B2B players’ secondary goals are for branding and public relations.

The study — which polled online and offline members of the DMA and its subsidiary, the Association of Interactive Marketing, in addition to unaffiliated firms — comes on the heels of positive results from Yahoo and DoubleClick .

Both firms reported a pro forma profit for the most recent quarter, although one-time accounting charges sunk both firms’ bottom-line results to a net loss.

Nevertheless, the DMA’s report and the recent earnings reports may suggest that things are turning around, however slowly, in the online marketing sector. (And that’s with an emphasis on the slowly: DoubleClick, the online ad sector’s largest technology player, is expecting to see another quarter of flat performance ahead, it said Thursday.)

Other findings in the report suggest that marketers are about equally split between using offline and online tactics to drive traffic to their sites. About 58 percent of those polled said they drive traffic to their Web site using direct mail, while almost as many (56 percent) said they made email marketing a major component of their promotional efforts. About 42 percent of the respondents said they use print ads and search engine optimization. Thirty-six percent also said they used online ads.

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