6 Tips to Optimize Your Catalog Business in 2011
After some volatile years in the catalog industry, confidence is emerging for better times ahead. Recovery actually started in 2010, when catalogers began returning to higher page counts and circulations. There will likely be some caution in the first half of the year as direct marketers continue to monitor the economy for signs of sustained improvement, but the second half could be much more robust.
Uncertainty only accentuates the need for solid planning. To help catalogers trying to make the most of 2011, here are six tips to help raise your catalog’s return on investment:
1. Plan your paper purchases. Paper prices are a matter of supply and demand, and paper manufacturers are proving they have the discipline to control supply. Plus, it’s a global market, and the buying environment can change very quickly based on currency values and demand in other parts of the world. The second half of next year could be much more challenging if demand increases, so having a secure paper source should take on added importance.
2. Prepare for new Intelligent Mail barcode rules. The Intelligent Mail barcode is the USPS’ new barcode technology used to track and sort letters and flats. It meshes the capabilities of the POSTNET and PLANET barcodes into one specialized barcode. Beginning in May, the new Intelligent Mail barcode format becomes a requirement for earning automation discounts. Make sure your company and your mailing source are tuned-in with the rules.
3. Do your database due diligence. Now is the time to make sure that your data is in shape. That means a clean, centralized database capable of being used for data mining. Targeting is the present and the future — and there's plenty of technology to support it — but nothing matters if you don’t have data in useable form.
4. Get past debating whether print works. It does. The facts support that people of all ages enjoy receiving catalogs. You get a longer attention span with print, a longer shelf life, a higher perceived value and many other advantages. The pressing issues for 2011 are determining how your print catalogs work in a cross-channel environment, and what's the right mix of print and electronic media for your brand.
5. Make sure your catalog is up to code. We’re talking about QR Codes (i.e., Quick Response codes or matrix codes), which are two-dimensional barcodes that, when photographed by a smartphone, can instantly connect shoppers to the digital world. You can use them to enter your customers in contests, take them to a live fashion show, offer a product demo and more.
6. Try a supplemental digital edition. In a world that's all about choice, page-flipping digital editions can play a great complement to print. The technology has come a long way from its early days, and digital editions are available in several levels of sophistication. Use them in the coming year to expand your international reach, instantly fulfill catalog requests and provide anytime, anywhere access to your catalog.
Perhaps the best tip for 2011 is to keep moving your catalog forward. The direct marketing environment will continue to reward those catalog marketers who look ahead and see opportunity where others see obstacles.
Bruce Jensen is group vice president of sales at Transcontinental Printing, a Saint-Laurent, Quebec-based provider of a full range of print and online personalization services. Reach Bruce at firstname.lastname@example.org.