Special Report: The Art and Science of Catalog Management
Two essential ingredients of any successful catalog business — marketing and merchandising — have artistic elements where experience, creativity and intuition count more than numbers and cold hard facts. But they also have numeric benchmarks that if ignored, can spell disaster for customer acquisition, customer retention and brand integrity.
Marketing and merchandising skill sets and viewpoints are vital, and impact the bottom line. When they’re in sync with each other, the resulting catalog invariably is better than either can deliver on its own. Interaction between the two disciplines is a two-way street, rather than a linear path.
There are several ways to leverage the expertise of each discipline. Even when catalogers have the same units — print catalog, retail store and Web — their approach to executing the best possible catalog is unique relative to their brand, target audience and mission.
The “art” of successful catalog management lies in finding and visually presenting the perfect products to your target audience. Here, merchandisers excel with their in-depth understanding and knowledge of a merchandise category. Catalogers develop expertise in particular product categories (both discovered and nurtured); strong vendor/buyer relationships are forged; and opportunities for new, and often exclusive, products emerge. They create a cycle to strengthen brand recognition with consumers. Product selections reflect the mission of the company and set the tone for your print catalog, Web site and other promotional marketing efforts.
Marketing’s artistic touch is evident when it suggests a call-out for the cover, or knows to sweeten the offer with special pricing or other incentives. Marketing people also apply creativity to the customer file and prospect list analysis. They should note past success with certain list segments and bring that to the attention of merchandising so the product line can be enhanced or positioned to appeal to this segment. Database-derived marketing reports often reveal demographic and lifestyle information on customers that provide a goldmine of information to merchandisers.