Dive Into a New Product Category
The lesson learned: When you must go outside of your list universe to make the new product idea work, reconsider if it’s worth testing. There may be other products closer to the needs of your core customer that you can test first.
6. Use the Web to test products when and if it’s appropriate for your catalog and audience. If the Web comprises a high percentage of your sales, you probably can dabble with new products online, says Minix. The challenge: While the opportunity cost is low (because you’re not paying for printing and mailing), people browse through catalogs more than they do Web sites. So you have to place the new products on your Web site where they’ll be easily seen.
Minix recalls one surprise incident: “We also have a company cooking school, and while the Internet typically is not a very large part of our business, we put an item from that school — a glass bucket with trifle server — on our Web site. It blew us away with the response it got.” So testing products on your site may be worth a try in certain market segments.
Of course, all these new product rules don’t hold true in every case. For example, on questions related to branding and consistency, Minix says he’s recently had an interesting twist occur at Reiman’s Country Store catalog. “We found through Abacus reports that our customers also tend to buy low-ticket jewelry — not the type of product we’d typically carry in our catalog.”
He worked with jewelry supplier Seta Corp. to devise a mini-assortment of jewelry at a good price point that would appeal to the demographic of older female shoppers who also like Reiman’s traditional, country-themed items.
Minix is anxious to see how the jewelry does in upcoming mailings. “We decided to step outside our normal merchandise and see if our customers would buy these kinds of items from us. Sometimes, you never know until you try.”