The Editor’s Take: Redefine Your Catalog, Don’t Replace It
During the holiday ’06 season, more than one assessment in the consumer press about the healthy state of the print catalog made reference to Mark Twain’s legendary reaction to seeing his own obituary in 1897, “The reports of my demise were greatly exaggerated.” As a metaphor for the print catalog, it’s a pretty accurate quote.
Nearly a decade since e-commerce Web sites were first tooled to process orders, it’s safe to say that the role of the print catalog has largely been recast. And unlike what so many free-speaking soothsayers were forecasting in the late ’90s, Web sites didn’t replace catalogs after all. (A somewhat more modern metaphor, “I’m not dead, yet!” from Monty Python, comes to mind.) They’ve instead begun to replace call centers — or at least, reduce the need for as many CSRs and call center space — not unlike the way toll-free numbers began replacing mail orders in the 1980s.
Today, a growing number of mailers receive at least half their orders online. While benefiting from search engine marketing, affiliate marketing and other Web-specific means of capturing customers seeking specific products, a growing number of their “home-grown” catalog customers are prompted by the print catalogs they receive; then go to their PCs to place orders.
Cater to the Catalog-to-Web Customer
Unlike the specific choices they make in the print book prior to calling toll-free numbers, catalog-to-Web customers often buy non-catalog/Web-exclusive products online. For these customers, the revised role of the print catalog isn’t drastically different than the role of retail traffic-driver catalogs. The catalog whets their appetites; the expanded offerings on the respective sites seal the deal.
Today’s print catalog no longer can merely play its traditional role as your complete “store” in print. Assuming you have a Web site that can take and process orders, your catalog needs to offer a more meticulously edited selection, clearly communicating to customers that they can go to your Web site or stores to see more of your products, and to place orders.
If you haven’t already, you may want to consider changing the tone of your catalog. Reinvent yourself as a personal shopping advisor; one who gives product purchase ideas with a neatly edited selection of your products — but who then steers shoppers over to your Web site or stores for a more complete selection.
Don’t lose sight of your catalog, even though fewer orders are coming in directly related to it. As you invest in Web site upgrades, don’t rob your catalog budget. What’s more, mail as frequently as your budget will allow, keeping in mind that you may not inspire more phone orders and you might have trouble matching a particular catalog mailed to a given Web-placed or store-based order. But the more you can keep your brand in front of your customers’ eyes with your catalog, the more likely they’ll buy from you. It’s all part of a now-proven multichannel marketing method that’s working better than ever for the industry at large.
More Found On The Web
Speaking of the Web-print connection, I encourage you to make more frequent visits to our recently revised Web site, CatalogSuccess.com. Until just a few months ago, we were admittedly behind the times in the development of our site. But our revamped site gives you myriad reasons to check in with us daily.
After retooling the site in the fall, we dispatched catalog marketing expert Jim Gilbert to write a blog called “Profitable Cataloging.” It almost immediately generated great interest and enthusiasm around the industry. In November, we launched “M&A: Q&A,” a catalog dealmaking column hosted by our valuations and acquisitions columnist, Larry West. I encourage you to keep up with both, and pepper them with your questions. Other Web columns will be forthcoming.
We’ve launched a new job opportunities section on our site with a steady flow of new positions posted daily. There’s also a plethora of tips, links to back issues of our print magazine and our weekly e-newsletter, Catalog Success Idea Factory. And we have a daily news feed to keep you up to date on the latest goings-on in the catalog/multichannel industries. Plus, don’t forget to vote in our weekly poll question in the upper right corner of our homepage, then check back later in the week to see how your peers voted.
All of these features are reasons to read what you have in your hands, then go to our site for a whole lot more of what you want to know. Not all that different from what you’re trying to get your customers to do.
—Paul Miller, Editor in Chief
(914) 669-8931. firstname.lastname@example.org