Shop Talk: Circulation Strategies to Improve Catalog Response Rates
Q: "Could you share any ideas about how many times consumers should get a mailing/catalog before they're likely to feel some brand recognition and buy? Is it better to send people the same/similar catalog a second time after a couple of months? Or send the catalog and then follow up with just a mailing/letter? Any information gratefully received." — Caroline Saunders, head of marketing, Dreamgenii
A: Will catalog response improve over time to rented prospecting names based on sending the same prospect multiple catalogs? The answer is no. Lots of catalogers mail the same prospecting universe of names multiple times, so there's quite a bit of data out there on the results of multiple catalog mailings to the same households. The most typical response to mailing the same profitable universe of rented names multiple times is that the list either responds the same time after time or the list shows a softening in response as buyers are culled from the list. It's rare for a catalog list to show an increase in response rates over time.
Best practice is to mail a test quantity of a rented list to see if response is above your break-even point. If the list responds above breakeven, then the test quantities can be increased. That said, the theory behind continuing to mail the same rented lists time after time isn't in hopes that response will improve but rather that the prospective customer will get more comfortable with your brand. The planning premise is to assume that you can maintain the same results or a slightly diminished response rate and dollars per book from the proven rental lists.
Co-op databases often will allow segmentation of a proven co-op database model into previously mailed names vs. new names that just floated to the top of the model and weren't previously mailed your catalog in the last round of modeling. In fact, the "previously mailed" names usually outperform the "new names." Does this prove that multiple touches with a catalog increase response? No, it just shows that the co-op names that rise to the top of the models time after time are actually the households that are most ready to buy. Co-op databases can serve up the same prospecting names time after time because these are the households that score the highest and are most likely to respond to your catalog mailings.
The good news is that while catalog response rates don't increase over time as prospects get multiple catalogs, good prospecting lists also don't fatigue and wear out very quickly. Therefore, you can usually depend on mailing proven rental lists many times before you've exhausted a particular list. And remember, a mailing list isn't a static property. New names constantly refresh both vertical lists and co-op database lists so a proven rental list can be expected to maintain its profitable response rate.
In summary, while a catalog list can't be expected to improve its response rate, its response rate should be stable over time and, hopefully, remain profitable over a cycle of many mailings.