Catalog Retailers’ Resolutions for a Profitable New Year
The recession has been tough for many catalog retailers. Recently announced cuts and operational changes within the U.S. Postal Service will burden catalog retailers even further in 2012, with increased costs and logistics challenges such as higher postage rates, mail processing center closures and the potential end of Saturday mail delivery. Private shippers are also expected to increase prices by about 5 percent this year.
However, catalog retailers can take actions now to improve profitability and competitiveness. Like losing weight or quitting smoking, these five New Year’s resolutions will lead to greater financial and operational health for catalogers in 2012.
1. Increase your web orders. While your catalog may still be what catches consumers’ eyes, accelerate their shift from phone ordering to the internet and even the mobile web. Even efficient call centers generate significantly higher costs than internet orders. Make efficient use of your e-commerce platform investment, where order placement costs are measured in pennies vs. the $3 to $4 it costs per phone order. Driving more orders online also allows for major savings through call-center consolidation and staff reductions.
Incentivize consumers to move from print to the web through special discounts or free shipping for online orders. The experience should be just as easy — if not easier — than ordering on the phone, even for the least sophisticated internet users. Once a customer orders online, the likelihood of future online purchases increases. You may also want to start thinking about mobilizing your catalog via Google Catalogs.
2. Outsource operations. There are more functions than just the call center that can be outsourced effectively. All aspects of fulfillment from call centers to warehousing and distribution can often be outsourced for significant savings. This can be especially critical for smaller catalog retailers that don’t have the budget scale of their larger competitors.