Testing Creative for Higher Response
Direct mailers test creative in the mail, always trying to “beat” the control package. In our business, each new catalog needs to look sufficiently different from the last, while still adequately portraying brand image. You need to keep things fresh, but you also have to guard against pushing your brand too far. If you’re only in the mail once with a cover, how do you achieve this?
At Crutchfield, an home and car electronics catalog, we test our covers by showing them to panels of different customer segments before we test them in the mail. By doing this, Crutchfield gets timely “winner”/”loser” information on the best cover for each segment, thereby maximizing sales.
To recruit the panel, we send invitations to a random sample of customers who purchased at least $100 during the past year. We ask if they want to be part of a group that would help us answer questions from time to time. If they agree, we send them a $10 merchandise credit each time they participate. To keep opinions fresh, we limit participation by each panelist to one year.
Because the panel is made up of buyers, and we know from which category the customer bought, we can use the panel’s feedback to appropriately target the “correct” cover to the different segments. For the last five years, we’ve tested a variety of elements including copy, background colors, product density, product category and lifestyle.
Panelists are sent four to seven different printed cover options. We give them about a week to fill out the survey, and ask them to rank the covers for relational strength and rate them on a continuum. They can respond via an 800 number, fax or a special URL.
With these tests, our customers get to feel more involved, and in that spirit we also run the tests on the Web. The Web and print results are usually consistent, but we defer to those of the print panel when there is a discrepancy because of color control issues and the fact that Web visitors aren’t necessarily qualified buyers.