Print Plus: Mine Web-Generated Catalog Requests With Extreme Care
Catalog requests or inquiries generated from the Internet are like diamonds in the rough. But how long it takes to fulfill these requests determines their true value to your company. Fulfillment time has a direct bearing on order conversion rates, and best practice says prospective buyers should receive the catalogs they requested online within 14 calendar days.
I recently completed a study to determine how long it takes catalog companies to fulfill inquiries. I went to several companies' Web sites to request catalogs, and six weeks later I'd received only about 50 percent of them. It took nine days to 43 days for them to arrive. Average delivery time was 13.1 days.
Several noteworthy issues arose:
- I requested 30 different catalogs online, and 16 of them never came — so potential sales were lost;
- it took 47 days to receive one catalog, and by then I'd forgotten I made the request; and
- another catalog was polybagged — time-consuming, costly and unnecessary.
Tips to Fulfill Online Requests
- Confirm by e-mail. Approximately 60 percent of the catalogs confirmed my request immediately by e-mail. It's a nice touch and, frankly, very important for the requestor to receive an e-mail response acknowledging the request. Let requestors know when to expect the catalog in their mailboxes.
- Plug the Web site. Encourage prospects to go to your Web site until their catalogs arrive.
- Process inquiries promptly. Don't wait until someone "can get to them."
- Fulfill inquiries via USPS First Class mail, or use a "preferred" catalog request fulfillment company, not a lettershop. For example, The Mail Group delivers catalogs in three to 11 days — 50 percent are in-home within seven days, 90 percent within 10 days.
- Thank the prospect for the inquiry with a label on the front cover (a dot whack) or a special ink-jet message next to the address block. This increases conversion rates.
- Consider making a special offer, such as free shipping or a dollar amount off orders for first- time purchasers.
- Include a source code on every catalog — it's difficult to capture online without a matchback.
- Remail nonconverting inquiries at least three times, or however many times is cost-effective.
Initial conversion rates for inquiries are typically 2 percent to 5 percent. Remailing nonconverting inquiries one, two or even three times often yields an additional 1 percent to 3 percent. That compares favorably with the 1 percent to 2 percent response rate of typical rented lists.