Print-Plus: Long Live the Order Form
More than 50 percent of all catalog orders are now placed via the internet. This development has impacted the use of bind-in catalog order forms. In fact, this growing trend has impacted the use of any type of order form. That said, the order form in a print catalog can still be beneficial. The decision to eliminate an order form shouldn't be based solely on saving money or on the percentage of orders received via the mail. There are other factors to consider.
In preparation for this column, I surveyed 100 catalog merchants with the help of printer The Dingley Press. This included a good mix of companies based on revenue size. The results were surprising. Forty-six percent of respondents had no order form at all — i.e., they didn't have a supplied bind-in order form. Nor did they have a printed-on-page order form. I also learned that 36 percent of these retailers included an order form printed on a page as part of their press run. Only 9 percent of respondents included a bind-in order form with an envelope, of which 6 percent had inside ink- jet imaging.
I did a similar study approximately eight years ago and the results were totally different. Nearly all of the 150 catalog businesses surveyed at that time included an order form in their books. Thirty-three percent of the businesses printed their catalog with the order form on a page in the catalog.
Order forms complement catalogs like a bottle of wine complements a nice meal. Mail order buyers are conditioned to look in the center of the catalog to find the terms and conditions and other important how-to-order information.
Today's catalogers receive fewer orders in the mail (5 percent or less). Most orders are received at a company's call center or its e-commerce website. Older catalog buyers (60 years and older) tend to use order forms more often, preferring to pay by personal check. But that's not the only use of order forms. Order forms are often used throughout the buying process, regardless of how the order is actually placed. Oftentimes catalog shoppers complete the order form first to speed up the ordering process, even if they plan to place their order by phone or online.