April 1, 2005, 12:00 AM

Hey catalog buyer, how about trying the web?

Some catalog customers need a nudge to try online shopping, as Quill Corp. discovered in its efforts to move buyers to its more cost-efficient, self-service channel, Quill.com. Quill’s offer of a free gift for a first online purchase has attracted customers to the web and produced incremental sales.

One of the advantages of being a cataloger in the Internet age is that customers are already accustomed to buying through a direct-delivery service, and that should make them more comfortable with buying online-or so the argument goes.

But some catalog customers need a nudge, as Quill Corp., a unit of Staples Inc., discovered in its efforts to move buyers to its more cost-efficient, self-service channel, Quill.com.

So far, the nudge-an e-mail campaign offering a free gift for a first online purchase-has not only attracted customers to the web but also produced incremental sales, says Brian Anderson, senior media manager. “The customer migration program has been very successful,” he says. “It’s enabled Quill to increase incremental revenue and sales, and it helps us make it faster and simpler for our customers to do business with us.”

Quill sells more than 50,000 business products, including general office supplies, furniture and printers, through b2b catalogs and Quill.com. But the company, founded in 1956, decided last year to move more catalog customers to Quill.com, which launched in 1996.

Quill is using a customer migration program working with e-mail services provider Responsys Inc. to identify customers who shop its catalog but not its web site. The Responsys system provides Quill with reports on e-mail open rates and click-throughs, which Quill merges with its own data on customer sales to judge how the e-mail campaigns are affecting sales in each channel.

The customer migration system complements Quill’s new branding campaign, “So Fast, So Simple,” Anderson says. “It is our goal to make it fast and simple for our customers to use Quill.com and shop from our e-mails.”

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