E-coming of Age
Over the years, I've made plenty of catalog purchases, but rarely simply because I was a catalog business editor. I only turned to catalogs when I needed something unusual or came across a killer sale. Otherwise, I bought my mainstream goods off the rack.
Today, that's changed. And the two vehicles that have impacted me the most have been the coming of age of e-mail and the remarkable ease of search engines.
I find e-mail's impact on me surprising, because less than five years ago, I'd delete any personal e-mail from just about any address I didn't recognize. But now, I find myself looking at a lot of promotional e-mail — and responding to it.
As a consumer, I find that one of the marketers doing the best job these days is 1-800-FLOWERS.COM. Having gotten me on its radar screen with a few previous purchases, 1-800-FLOWERS.COM doesn't overwhelm me with e-mails. It hits me with very specific offers that seem to provide just what I'm looking for — or not looking for. And when I'm not looking, the company's offers have been enticing enough to get my business.
I got three e-mails over the course of four days prior to Mother's Day, then a late June offer, two mid-July offers and one at the end of July. The offers are to the point: 30 roses for $30; a $10 discount; buy 12 roses, get six free. The e-mails make it easy to order.
Not all the promotional e-mails I get are as effective or relevant. For instance, I'm overwhelmed by promotional e-mails from Harbor Freight Tools that are more general in nature and of little interest to me. I typically receive one per week.
As for search, I've become a searchaholic (then again, who hasn't?). Since I spend a significant portion of my day in front of my computer, I find myself searching for issue-related matters on Yahoo! or Google, and for particular products on those sites or Amazon.com.
It remains a crapshoot when I look to see which recognizable names come up on my product searches. Although Williams-Sonoma is close to the top in both free and paid search listings for "cookware," Home Depot is nowhere to be found on the first page of my "hardware" search. As for more specific searches, such as "golf drivers," TGW came up in the free search, but mostly small sites showed up in the paid search.
So although both e-mail marketing and search engine optimization have come a long way in just a few years, there are greater advances catalogers can make. We'll continue to offer more and more articles on these subjects, beginning with Alan Rimm-Kaufman's column in this issue (see page 39) in which he conducted a fascinating study of e-mail sign-ups. Check it out, and let me know how you're doing.
—Paul Miller, Editor in Chief