Why Not a Catalogers’ Black Friday? (Or, How I Developed a Major Inferiority Complex on Your Behalf)
Did anybody else get an inferiority complex over the Thanksgiving weekend? I’m referring to the hoopla that surrounded Black Friday on Nov. 23. Like just about anything else in America, Black Friday gets bigger every year, and this year really went over the top. It got me thinking about the future: Does this “holiday” have to be a retail-only one?
I certainly read enough about it. I saw plenty of TV news clips of those crazy, sleep-deprived shoppers lining up outside the stores in the wee hours of that Friday morning. I sifted through enough Circuit City, Kohl’s, Macy’s and Wal-Mart circulars about their 5 a.m. store openings and those six-hour-only, to-die-for sales. But I received no catalogs prior to Black Friday looking to cash in on the big day in their own way.
And then came Cyber Monday, Nov. 26. By the end of that day, I found myself wondering again, why didn’t I see any catalog (e-mail) offers? My wife Donna, my 17-year-old son Marc, and I all buy from catalogs. They collect our e-mail addresses.
This is admittedly subjective since we don’t dole out our e-mail addresses to every multichannel marketer under the sun. But here’s my point: Because she possesses so many store credit cards, my wife did receive killer sale offers on Monday via e-mail from the likes of Staples, Macy’s, Victoria’s Secret and Ann Taylor. She did actually get an offer from one cataloger, Performance Bicycle. And our copy editor Mavis Linnemann reports that she received an e-mail offer that day from the reincarnated J. Peterman catalog. But that’s about it.
Hey, the retailers all had their day on Black Friday! At least Monday should’ve been catalogers’ day?
And here’s where the inferiority complex comes into play. I got to thinking: Why can’t this considerably smaller, lower-profile portion of the retail industry that we call the multichannel business grab a piece of either day’s action? Catalogers have a whole lot of ways to cash in on either of them, but I witnessed nothing. Even the Performance Bicycle offer my wife received was a holiday-themed offer that had no time limit (for that day) and basically no urgency whatsoever. And at just 10 percent off orders of $50 or more, we could have gobbled up about four or five cheap bikes at Wal-Mart instead.
A Challenge for 2008
To all this, I challenge catalog/multichannel marketers to step up next year and claim either of these “shopping holidays” as their own.
Naturally, it’s easy to send out time-sensitive e-mails to cash in on Cyber Monday. But think bigger than that. If Target, OfficeMax and Kmart could pack ’em in at 5 a.m. on Friday, why can’t you mail out special sale catalogs with similarly attractive killer deals that arrive in homes a week before Thanksgiving and slap a dot whack on the cover that promotes the following:
BLACK FRIDAY SPECIAL!
Why crash the mall? Apply the great discounts in this catalog to orders placed either online or via our toll-free number between 5 a.m. and 11 a.m. (in your time zone), Friday, Nov. 28, 2008. Supplies limited.
Why not beat retailers at their own game? But then again, who says you have to confine your efforts to just Black Friday and Cyber Monday? How about a Catalog Wednesday?
“The event is the key,” says Phil Minix, president of the MCM Electronics catalog. “Try the same merchandising concepts, such as door-busting deals, special GWP [gift with purchase] or PWP [purchase with purchase] items, shipping deals, etc. Then, advertise the upcoming event with e-mails and on your homepage.”
Phil, who says he will look to try this possibly later this year or early next, also recommends mailing a postcard or doing a blow-in into a catalog that hits in-home within a couple weeks of the event. “I’d tease people with some specifics of the event,” he says, “but would keep some a secret to encourage the visit to the site.”
Then, it’s merely a matter of making sure you have plenty of bandwidth and assigning someone to monitor everything, “to make sure you stay up and running during the event,” he adds. “It might even be cool to have some kind of ‘personal’ deal with a code that you enter from your e-mail or mailed piece. Then you find out what you get from it.”
And Alison Roigard, director of online marketing at Web design and SEO consulting firm Netconcepts, offers the following suggestions for catalogers looking to get a piece of these or other special shopping days.
* Stray from your usual e-mail templates. Try something visually different. Disseminate information quickly.
* When plugging e-mail specials, you don’t necessarily have to wait until Black Friday or Cyber Monday. Offer specials that start on Thanksgiving Day when all the stores are closed. Let customers know ahead of time so they can plan their shopping.
* Try not to confine your offer to just free shipping since “people expect that now.”
* Provide on-site messaging that matches the offers made on these days, and support messages through other channels.
There was certainly plenty of money spent on Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Numbers coming out of retail shopping research firm ShopperTrak showed retail sales on Black Friday and the day after combined rose 7.2 percent for a total of $16.4 billion in sales.
Another piece of research from comScore indicated that sales on Cyber Monday alone were $700 million, a 15 percent increase over the same day last year.
The downside of all the heavy free-shipping and price-slashing promotions, however, was that average spending per consumer dropped by 3.5 percent to $347.44 compared to last year, according to the National Retail Federation.
And according to a ForeSee Results survey just in, Cyber Monday shoppers were more satisfied this year than they were on the same day in previous years. ForeSee’s Cyber Monday customer satisfaction index was up 1.3 percent, or one point better than satisfaction levels in 2006 (a score of 76.6 vs. 75.6 on a 100-point scale).
ForeSee’s research shows online shoppers were more likely than ever before to buy both online and offline on Cyber Monday, as well as in the weeks leading up to it. “In past years, we’ve seen a much less integrated multichannel strategy; shoppers were likely to either buy online or offline, but not both,” said President/CEO Larry Freed in his announcement of the findings. “This year, we see that retailers have figured out a way to use the online visit to drive sales both online and offline, which really maximizes the value of the Web site for a multichannel retailer.”
Freed isn’t excluding catalogers altogether in his assessment, but he’s clearly referring primarily to brick-and-mortar retailers. And I see no reason why catalogers can’t become part of this story.
If you’re considering creating such shopping events, consider that the bottom line is pretty straightforward. Don’t sit back and let the big retailers cash in on all that holiday spending money when you can get a piece of it yourself.
As you know, Catalog Success magazine and our two e-newsletters, including this one, always make catalogers/multichannel marketers the focus of all our articles. We occasionally solicit expert commentary from vendor experts when they have non-promotional information to offer that our readers can learn from. Beyond that, we’re all about the cataloger/multichannel marketer.
I can’t begin to count how many press releases I delete every day, but I received one on Nov. 27 from printer Quebecor World that I found to be pretty cool and felt compelled to share it with you. Using its Muller Martini Supra saddle stitcher, Quebecor claims to have established a new world record for print finishing speed and productivity at its Augusta, Ga., plant. The printer reported that it produced and mailed 665,401 catalogs in a 24-hour period.
The claimed record involved gathering, binding, trimming, ink-jetting, mailing and shipping. I never endorse one vendor over another, but simply felt this was worth mentioning — congrats, Quebecor.