Crisis Drives Innovation for Catalog Mailers
One couldn’t leave the Annual Conference for Catalog & Multichannel Merchants (ACCM) in New Orleans last month without mixed feelings. People wondered, “Where will the catalog industry meet with a show that has a critical mass of attendees from the industry?” Some took this year's disappointing attendance as a sign that the catalog business has truly evolved into a multichannel industry, and that catalogers are harvesting the low-hanging fruit over in Internet-land.
The fall in response rates and the profit pressure from postage and paper increases have been a double whammy on catalogers. Perhaps catalogers’ focus has shifted to the Internet, ignoring this traditional show because success is measured in sales and profit growth — and they just don’t get paid to retrench. So ACCM is in crisis. In fact, the entire catalog industry is in crisis. But crisis forces innovation, and catalogers have lots of new, innovative strategies to survive these troubled times.
* The co-op databases are working hard to produce better models to improve prospecting response. Co-ops are producing more and better models to try and capture market share in catalogers’ shrinking universes of prospecting lists responding above breakeven. All the co-ops at ACCM had new modeling strategies aimed at increasing response.
Specifically, co-ops are focusing on buyer optimization to squeeze the nonresponsive households out of housefiles. The co-ops are recognizing what catalogers have known for years: The housefile is the profit engine for catalogers, and they're vitally interested in keeping theirs in peak health.
* Abacus pushed catalogers to know and understand that gray zone of prospecting slightly below breakeven where the prospecting investment is paid back in six months to a year — what it calls “near-term value.”
Catalogers need to understand that prospecting slightly below breakeven may actually prove more profitable than attempting to only prospect above breakeven. Fixed costs need to be covered; stretching the envelope of prospecting can allow catalogers to keep sales and profits up and avoid deep cuts in their fixed costs.