In the IndustryEye section of this issue on pgs. 12-13, you’ll find our second quarterly Catalog Success Latest Trends Report, a benchmarking survey we conducted in late November in partnership with the multichannel ad agency Ovation Marketing. This one focuses on key catalog/multichannel issues, and we’ve included most of the charts there, so I encourage you to take a look.
You’ll be able to find some charts only on our Web site due to magazine space limitations. We also didn’t have the space to include the numerous comments that you — our readers and survey respondents — wrote in response to two of the questions. So like I did in the October issue for our first survey, I’m dedicating this space to them — and many of your comments are quite indicative of where this industry is right now and where it's heading in the near future. For those answers mentioned frequently, there are figures in parenthesis representing the number of respondents who gave that response. Naturally, postal rate increases dominated.
Q: What are the biggest challenges facing the catalog/multichannel industry in the immediate future?
● postal rate increases (39);
● rising paper costs (15);
● rising print, production and ink costs (8);
● measurement, source codes, matchbacks, tracking orders or, as one respondent put it, “when we can’t capture source codes on orders driven by the catalog but not mailed (i.e., store copies, pass-alongs)” (7);
● paper availability (4);
● Web generating sales on its own (4);
● the threat of multistate sales tax collection (3);
● parcel shipping costs (3);
● the threat of do-not-mail or privacy legislation, and the cost of such services needed;
● getting the info the customer needs and wants without providing info they don’t want or need;
● fuel costs, which drive up mailing expenses and wholesale/retail channel distribution expenses;
● a lack of marketing expertise/commitment from distribution channel partners;
● e-mail clutter;
● cost of pay per click;
● comparison shopping;
● maintaining relevancy of printed catalogs;
● making the transition from all catalog to partial catalog and Internet;
● USPS requirements forcing change to form factors;
● lessening opt-outs by providing better and more valuable e-communications to customers;
● lowering shopping cart abandonment rates;
● “getting online catalog search engines to work the way the customers expect them to in their minds”;
● online marketing with enhanced spam filters;
● environmental issues;
● truly understanding the link among all three channels and how customers move between them;
● finding new customers;
● maintaining good relations with vendors;
● credit card security issues; and
● predicting stock levels.
Q: What are the biggest opportunities facing the catalog/multichannel industry in the immediate future?
● developing a synergistic customer contact strategy that includes catalogs, Web, e-mail, retail, etc. (7);
● differentiating catalog and online content in a way that gives added overall value;
● social marketing;
● using online capabilities to help customers deeply explore what catalogers’ products can do for them;
● addition of other media on the Internet;
● getting in on the avenues the younger generation uses most;
● potential consolidations and mergers;
● reducing print and leveraging e-commerce;
● “to give [Internet] customers the same level of experience — in terms of service — as they get on the phone so they’re willing to spend as much, if not more, time online”;
● reaching international buyers through the Internet;
● smaller catalogs that will drive Internet ordering;
● providing better service and greater economies than retail;
● the ability to leverage segmentation knowledge from print catalog marketing to e-commerce marketing; and
● taking market share from those who are pulling back.