Shop Talk: Best Practices for Testing Catalog Creative
Q: "We're trying to decide which cover promotions to test on our catalogs: free shipping, percentage off, dollar amount off or free gift. We're looking at a "scratch off" label on the cover because we sell create-your-own scratch tickets and believe it's consistent with our brand. But what should we put under the labels? The obvious answer is to test, but since we're a small business I'd love to get some advice about which ones are most successful before going that route, as well as any insights into cover offers in general. Thanks." — Susan Landay, president, Trainers Warehouse
A: What to test? When to test? How to test? Questions for the ages! It's a little hard for me to tell you without knowing what your mail quantity is, but I'm going to suggest something that may take away the sting of an A/B split test. First, do a control test vs. an A vs. B test. That's right, a true test will take equal-sized blocks of your housefile and devote each one to a control (i.e., no offer) vs. an A and a B.
My suggestion to keep your A/B test from breaking the bank is to use a scratch-off that's on a dot whack or sticker. Another option is to use a piggyback sticker, which is a two-layer sticker. The prize is printed on the bottom layer and the layer on top has a teaser like "What did you win? Lift and see!" When the top layer is peeled off the message below is undamaged and easily readable.
You can print stickers and dot whacks in smaller quantities, and although you'll eventually want to try this directly on your catalog cover, if you use two different dot whacks (they look the same before the scratch-off label is done) it will cost a pittance compared to a four- or five-color plate change for your cover. (Not to mention the fact that the tests I've been involved with have actually always ended up with a physical dot whack outperforming printed-on ones anyway.) People forget that paper is tactile and recipients feel something different when they hold the catalog. That something different elevates their awareness of your offer.