An Online Retailer's Journey Into Catalogs
"We learned very quickly that we had no idea what we were doing." That's how Meredith Mahoney, senior director and general manager of Birch Lane, a home décor brand that's part of formerly online-only Wayfair Inc., bluntly assessed the company's start in the catalog industry. Tasked with starting a brand from scratch in seven months, Mahoney and her team at Birch Lane learned on the fly — and self-admittedly made some mistakes in the process. However, what's emerged is a growing brand that's positioned itself for future success.
At the NEMOA directXchange Spring Conference in Boston last Friday, Mahoney gave a keynote speech where she laid out the challenges Birch Lane faced in launching a print catalog with a staff whose only experience was in e-commerce, as well as the takeaways from the experience and what the brand has planned going forward to continue the momentum from its successful launch.
Why a Catalog?
E-commerce has been good to Wayfair, providing years of sustainable growth and increasing profits. So why bring print into the equation? It was the natural next step in our marketing strategy, said Mahoney, adding that it was a new way for Birch Lane to reach customers. In addition, a catalog offers Birch Lane an end-to-end brand strategy as well as a new channel for the brand to extend its digital marketing expertise.
However, Birch Lane wasn't without its challenges as it launched the new business last year. In addition to not knowing anything about the catalog business, a very aggressive timeline was put in place for Birch Lane's debut — concept to launch in seven months (September 2013 and March 2014, respectively). Add in the fact that Mahoney was leading a skeleton crew — less than 10 people, and that included buyers, creative, production and marketing — and the odds appeared stacked against Birch Lane.