Fold it Up?
If you’re like most catalogers, you’ve either discussed giving up the use of a bind-in order form with envelope or you have already eliminated it. There’s a definite trend to eliminate the bind-in order form/envelope typically found in the center of catalogs. Is that really the right thing to do?
This month, I’ll offer the pros and cons of using a bind-in order form/envelope, provide you with actual test results and give you the criteria to use to make the right decision for all the right reasons.
Facts Don’t Lie
I first explored this topic in a Catalog Success column back in 2001. I reviewed 150 catalogs at random. I found that 43 percent of them printed the order form on one or two pages in the catalog instead of using a separate bind-in order form with envelope.
Because so many B-to-B catalogs don’t use bind-in order forms, I eliminated these catalogs from my survey. In doing so, I found that one-third of consumer catalogs were printing the order form on a page in the catalog and not using a separate bind-in order form.
Six years later, thanks to the help of The Dingley Press, I conducted the same survey. This time, I found that approximately 33 percent of the catalogs surveyed use a bind-in order form with envelope. The other 67 percent either print the order form on a catalog page or have no order form. From the group that prints the order form on a catalog page, two-thirds ink-jet the name, address and source code. One-third ink-jet the back cover only.
This means that in six years, the number of catalogers using a separate bind-in order form with envelope has dropped from 67 percent to approximately 33 percent based on our survey findings.
What should you make of this? First of all, I strongly feel that all catalogs should include some type of printed order form. It should be ink-jet imaged with the contact’s name, address and source code if possible. Eliminating the order form altogether shouldn’t be an option regardless of how much business is going through the Web.
The first thing people say to me when they’re thinking about eliminating the bind-in order form is how many “mail orders” they receive in the envelope. Typically less than 5 percent of orders are received by mail today, but this shouldn’t be what drives the decision to eliminate the bind-in order form/envelope.
Before you eliminate the bind-in order form, set up an A/B split test; it’s fairly inexpensive. You’ll see results similar to those in the chart below. The catalog in the chart has a high average order size and lower response rate. But there’s no statistical difference between the two groups to either the housefile or prospects.
The Case for Elimination
There are at least three reasons to eliminate the bind-in order form with envelope.
1. Cost savings. Prices range from $12 to $20 (or more) per thousand depending on size, quantity and use of color. They add weight to the catalog, which can increase postage.
2. Page count expansion. Elim-inating the bind-in order form can help you expand page count while remaining at the postal piece rate. The maximum weight for a piece-rate catalog is 3.306 ounces.
For example, a catalog measuring 8 inches by 101⁄8 inches without a bind-in order form/envelope can grow to 68 pages, 64 pages of which are printed on 34-lb paper and a four-page cover on 60-lb paper for mailing at the piece rate. The catalog in this example weighs 3.3 oz.
3. Additional co-mailing opportunities. Most catalogs that use a bind-in order form with envelope ink-jet the order form page with the contact’s name, address and source code. By giving up the ink-jetting on the inside order form, there will be more opportunities to co-mail offline with other catalogs. With offline co-mailing, printers only can ink-jet image the back cover; once the book is bound, the inside cannot be ink-jetted.
The Case for Keeping It
1. Gross margin loss. Giving up the bind-in order form means using valuable full-color pages in the catalog for the order form and ordering information. If you print this information in the body of the catalog, you could be using those pages to sell more merchandise. That’s a lost opportunity because most often sales will more than cost-justify having the bind-in order form. The thought behind removing the bind-in often is limited to how much money will be saved.
2. Loss of hot spot at center spread. The center spread where the bind-in order form generally appears is considered a “hot spot.” That’s because the catalog tends to lay open to the center spread, making it an excellent place to present and sell merchandise. Eliminating the bind-in order form reduces the hot spot’s effectiveness, because the catalog doesn’t lay open as easily.
3. The market you serve. Older catalog buyers (age 60 and older) tend to use the order form and envelope more and often pay by personal check. If you sell to a more senior market, think twice about eliminating the envelope.
Add It All Up
If you’re going to eliminate the use of the bind-in order form envelope, print the order form on the left-hand page of the center spread and ink-jet image the source code, customer number, and the name and address fields on the page as you would do if using a bind-in version. That’s unless you have the opportunity to co-mail offline. Feature merchandise on the right-hand page at the centerfold.
Don’t give up both pages of your center spread for the order form and ordering information. Look beyond the amount you pay for the bind-in order form/envelope in making your decision.
Consider the gross margin dollar loss associated with giving up one or two full-color pages in the catalog that could be used to sell more. Don’t eliminate the order form altogether, always test first.
Stephen R. Lett is president of Lett Direct Inc., a catalog consulting firm specializing in circulation planning, forecasting and analysis. He’s the author of “Strategic Catalog Marketing.” Reach him at (302) 537-0375 or at www.lettdirect.com.