Understanding Your Holiday Catalog Circulation Results
Here are some ways to look at your holiday catalog results to understand how your business responded to its catalog circulation:
- Compare your housefile and prospecting results vs. the previous year and your break-even point. Are results stronger, weaker or comparable to the 2014 holiday season?
- Compare your daily sales flash to the previous holiday season. Did sales follow the same order curve as 2014? Did sales compare later in the season? Did your best days have greater revenue than the previous year’s best days? Did the holiday season start to accelerate later than it did in 2014? (Many catalogers are reporting that the 2015 holiday season started later than the prior year.)
- What were the sales spikes that came from your email promotions? Catalogs create demand, and your emails harvest that demand. Looking at daily sales spikes can give you a measure of the impact of your emails and the incremental sales generated from them. Daily sales can also tell you where your email offers and frequency left sales gaps.
- Compare sales for Cyber Monday and Black Friday to see how those two peak days have been extended earlier than Thanksgiving and how both days have been extended into week-long promotions. Did you lose sales on the front end of Black Friday or the back end of Cyber Monday by having your promotion periods too short?
- Did you test deploying emails along with your catalog circulation to cost effectively boost sales? Lots of catalogers are testing match-and-deploy email campaigns to boost response to their catalog circulation.
- How can you best handle attribution for your fourth-quarter catalogs? A simple technique is to add together the matchback results of all your fourth-quarter catalogs and divide by the number of catalogs that each list segment received. Otherwise, the matchback process will allocate a disproportionate amount of sales to the holiday season’s last catalog.
- Did you vary your fourth-quarter email and catalog offers so they didn’t get stale? Which offers worked best?
- Did your catalog hit its revenue goals? If not, was the softness in your house list, prospecting lists or both? Did you hit your overall revenue goals but not your catalog revenue goals? If you hit your top-line revenue goal but catalog revenue seemed soft, look at your rules for multichannel attribution. You may simply be overallocating sales to the “last touch” of email rather than seeing actual soft demand from your catalogs.
- Look at which segments fell below your variable breakeven. Why did these segments not achieve breakeven? Was it a softness across the entire circulation or did specific house or prospecting segments underperform?
- How was your margin and average order value compared to the 2014 holiday season?
- Did your product mix change compared to previous holiday seasons? Did you have better success with individual merchandise items compared to previous seasons?
- Did backorders impact your top-line demand? Were your backorders different than in previous holiday seasons?
- It's becoming increasingly harder to wring response rates out of holiday mailings in September and early October. Were your early-season sales soft? Did you make up that lost ground?
- Where did your new-to-file customers come from? Was it from catalog prospecting or from internet marketing? Which channels for new customer acquisition are scalable? Which channels for customer acquisition are most profitable?
- What portion of your catalog circulation for prospecting proved profitable and exceeded your variable breakeven? Did you leave any profitable prospecting universe unmailed?
- Is there a difference in response rates for those customers with an opt-in email address vs. those without an email address for the same RFM segments?
The holiday buying season is getting more compressed each year as consumers wait longer and longer to purchase — i.e., the impact of Amazon.com, Amazon Prime and American consumers waiting for the “best deal” make each year a tighter sales window. Understanding your catalog’s circulation successes and failures is the key to getting the most response and optimizing profits. Now is the time to review the bright spots and challenges from this past holiday selling season.
Jim Coogan is the founder and president of Catalog Marketing Economics, a consulting firm focused on catalog circulation planning.