Catalog Executive Panel: Multichannel Customers Reign Supreme
Multichannel marketing and customer relations were the primary business issues cited by three catalog executives speaking at the Hudson Valley Direct Marketing Association’s luncheon Feb. 23 in Rye, N.Y. Despite their diverse markets, Lillian Vernon President Jonathan Shapiro, CM Almy President Stephen Fendler, and Petals CEO Chris Topping agreed on the need for continuity among sales channels in order to grow their businesses.
With 45 percent of its orders coming online during the holiday 2004 season, Lillian Vernon is particularly attentive to the rapid channel shift to online buying. “I call it ‘shift happens’,” Shapiro said. “It’s important for us, and everybody, to understand the integration of sales channels.”
Since his days as a consultant to Time Warner in the mid-1990s when he first began focusing on the future of online shopping, Shapiro noted,”Depending on which metrics you read, there’s already $60 billion in online sales” in just 10 years. “So this world is shifting at an ever-increasing pace.” What’s more, he said, online shoppers are converting at a faster pace than traditional mail order customers.
CM Almy, which markets liturgical artifacts to churches and consumers, has operated a transactional Web site for only two years. But already 20 percent of its orders are coming online, representing 10 percent of its overall sales. The company, founded in the 1800s, relies on its 200-page catalog as its primary selling tool. Fendler is the fifth generation at the family-run business. He said that now CM Almy, too, is focusing more heavily on the Internet as its primary sales channel of the future.
Although CM Almy’s biggest driver of new customers is its Web site, its biggest sales driver is the creation of new products customers want.”We put on good, old fashioned trunk shows in local churches to help us stay in touch with customers,” Fendler said. “It’s a great driver of new customers -- customers with tremendous lifetime value.”