Guest View: Economic Malaise, Plethora of Vendor Intros Among Highlights From ACCM
Editor’s Note: Jim Coogan, a catalog consultant since 1993 and former VP of marketing at Woodworker’s Supply, among other catalog and retail positions, has been a regular contributor for Catalog Success and the Catalog Success: Tactics & Tips e-newsletter for the past year. He attended the May 19-22 ACCM conference in Kissimmee, Fla., and filed the following recap on the event. I’ll file my own personal reflections on the conference in the July print edition. — Paul Miller, editor-in-chief
There’s nothing like an economic downturn to get people’s attention. And the state of the economy and how it would affect catalogers was topic A at the ACCM this year. Among others, a prominent, dual theme that emerged from the Power Forum on May 19 for how to drive sales in a down economy was that catalogers need to deliver good value and give great service.
Lauren Freedman of the e-tailing group said the old Marshall Field’s theme, “Give the Lady What She Wants,” still holds true when it comes to great service and good value. The Monday forum yielded some other good insights into the second half of 2008:
* catalogers will use promotions aggressively during the fall and holiday seasons;
* those who don’t have abandoned shopping cart e-mail programs should implement them right away;
* Web 2.0’s most exciting tool is Web-generated content reviews;
* great product trumps all; and
* rich media is helping make the Web a tactile experience for people.
Intriguing Vendor Intros
Although exhibit hall traffic was noticeably light, there were some noteworthy vendor introductions.
* Cooperative database provider I-Behavior introduced a subsidiary, aCerno, a co-op database for the Web. Its model is to serve up banner ads to traffic prospects who are likely to be interested in your product. The key is that you pay only when a sale is made, so participants get guaranteed profitability; aCerno received strong testimonials from major catalogers that this program was delivering a large volume of sales.
* Abacus One, the newest generation of Abacus modeling, is responsible for more than half of all Abacus volume, indicating both wide acceptance and good success in replacing the older generation of models. Abacus seems to have shifted into an even higher gear and was delivering state-of-the-art co-op database solutions from matchbacks with Channelview to Abacus One to a suite of models and analytic approaches for midsized catalogs.
* NextAction opened up the “black box” of modeling and made a strong case that its next generation of modeling has the potential to deliver more responsive and larger universes of profitable names.
* Printers continue to jump on the co-mail bandwagon as a significant opportunity to cut postage costs. Quad/Graphics, Quebecor World, Arandell, Brown Printing and Transcontinental all laid out state-of-the-art co-mail solutions for in-line and off-line co-mailing.
* Don Cooke from Midland Paper shared his assessment of the paper market, projecting that there’s likely to be a $2/cwt increase on either July 1 or Oct. 1.
The recession-like economy is having negative effects on catalogers, Cooke noted, and the printer’s catalog customers are quite nervous about prospects for holiday sales. Imports of coated paper are down more than 30 percent due to the exchange rates in Europe and Canada.
Additionally, exports from North America are up double digits. “These forces,” Cooke said, “will play a roll if the second half of the year tightens. Demand has been severely weakened from the postage and paper increases of the last nine months.”
Right now, Cooke noted, all grades of paper are available, although SCA-plus grades have seen robust conversion from coated paper customers trying to save money.
* CognitiveDATA’s proprietary changes of address solutions were highlighted with its “Cut the Crap” theme at the show. Mailers are turning to PCOA hygiene to cut anywhere from 3 percent to 10 percent of waste from their housefile mailings.
* Quebecor partnered with the database marketing consultancy Daystar Wheaton Group to demo a powerful data management tool as part of the printer’s initiative to evolve from being simply a printer to becoming a full-service catalog provider.
* Catalog Marketing Services’ Prefer Network co-op database announced the launch of FreeMAX8, a suite of solutions designed to solve the problem of co-op database multibuyers as well as services to cut out poorly responding names.
Catalogers came to the ACCM looking for answers on how to preserve profitability and maintain sales in light of the slowdown. And the vendors responded with actionable solutions for many of the problems catalogers face. Look for slightly lower circulation and a strong focus on promotions in the upcoming fall/holiday season.
A final note: The Memorial Day holiday weekend forced us to shuffle our schedule around so that the next edition of The Corner View will be in three weeks on June 20.