For some reason, I often feel the need to reflect back on my past experience in the catalog/multichannel business when I write these things. Is that typical for these kinds of columns and newsletters? Or at 47, am I just gettin’ old? Hopefully the former, because here I go again.
These days, it seems like more and more “rules” of cataloging must be changed for myriad reasons: to account for unfair postal rates, to cater to consumers’ reduced attention spans and to accommodate catalogers’ increased reliance on other marketing channels, namely the Web and retail for consumer marketers and the Web, distribution advancements, telemarketing and in some cases, retail for B-to-B marketers.
The rules also have to change to accommodate consumers’ changing shopping patterns. Here are my three most noteworthy recent rule changes in order of severity:
1. Copywriting: There’s a dwindling number of Americans who have the patience to do much of anything these days, much less read globs and globs of copy. When it comes to newspapers, magazines, catalogs and the like, many consumers have had their reading habits abridged by assorted cultural changes.
I’m sure this goes all the way back to the advent of TV. Thankfully, I can’t hark back that far, but the YouTube phenomenon seems to be reducing everything to a two- to 10-minute clip.
Even more notably, the abundance of reading material available on the Web has tightened our reading patience levels because we’re all in such a rush to click to the next page. There’s more to read! There’s more to read! Gotta move on! Gotta move on!
There always have been pop culture phenomena that counter these trends. For instance, Harry Potter fans are joyfully and patiently sitting down and reading all 759 pages of “Harry Potter & the Deathly Hallows.” The No. 1 grossing movie of all time, “Titanic,” is three hours and 17 minutes in length. Nevertheless, the trend is primarily toward shorter, quicker.
Bottom line: Catalog copywriters are being forced to tighten up, particularly when they’re writing sales copy for the Web. Lengthy, romantic interludes about products can’t succeed the way they once did. Cut to the chase, give a brief description, spit out the benefits and get out of there.
2. Search: This one certainly doesn’t reflect on “ancient” times, but it’s nonetheless a significant rule change. Earlier this decade/century, the primary focus for catalogers’ evolving e-commerce businesses was on how effectively a homepage drew customers into their assorted offerings. It made perfect sense, considering how much attention catalogers have to pay to their print book covers to engage customers.
But now that most of our lives revolve around our ability to conduct searches, landing pages are far more crucial than homepages for catalogers. Fewer consumers will go to a cataloger’s homepage just to shop. They’ll more often end up there after searching for a particular product. So, you need to set up your search landing pages so you’ll successfully get them to buy when they land in your court.
3. Talent: Another more recent phenomenon, fewer catalogers seek out online experts to run their e-commerce businesses. Instead, now they need individuals with hybrid backgrounds, in marketing, e-commerce and to an extent, information technology.
In the Web’s early days, catalogers developed separate e-commerce departments. But the wise companies today have long since broken down the silos that kept catalog departments from coordinating with e-commerce departments and retail departments.
The positive of this is that these companies have their multichannel machines working effectively and efficiently, knowing at all times what each channel is doing. But there’s a negative: If you want to get get a good middle- to upper-management position with a catalog/multichannel/direct marketing company today, you’d better know how each channel works, forwards and backwards, even if you came into it only knowing about one particular channel.