Melissa Sepos

Melissa Sepos
After the Hike: Mailing Strategies

This summer, catalogers will get hit with yet another postal rate increase. The U.S. Postal Service (USPS) plans to raise rates 7.7 percent on average, with a 6.2-percent increase for catalogers who presort mailings by carrier route. So, what’s a cataloger to do? Catalog Success asked three industry veterans for their strategies on saving costs following a postal hike. Alan Rimm-Kaufman, vice president of marketing at Crutchfield catalog Q: In what ways will you save money after the postal hike? A: On mailing catalogs, the two big things are to mail to better names and to have a more efficient book. It’s really

CRM Solutions Can Help Cross-Sell and Upsell

Although customer relationship management (CRM), has been a buzzword for the past few years, catalogers have applied it to telemarketing on a sophisticated level only in the past year. The reason for the delay is not because catalogers lack desire to incorporate cutting-edge technology, but rather that CRM solutions can be expensive and tricky to implement effectively, say experts. But careful CRM system selection and adequate staff training can, among other benefits, help boost the cross-sell and upsell rates of your catalog’s customer service reps (CSRs). Goal: Customer Retention Kathryn Jackson of Response Design, a call center consulting firm, says cold calls and

E-Catalog: Creating Channel Incentives

Attempting to market across multiple channels, catalogers have been using myriad marketing methods to drive sales to particular channels and across channels. While the promotions can be effective, they are hard to track. Netcentives, a loyalty and e-mail marketing solutions company, is offering catalogers a new way of following customers’ buying habits, creating more effective marketing campaigns and encouraging multi-channel shopping with its program Retail Rewards. Customers join Retail Rewards by registering their credit card with their favorite catalogers to receive rewards for their purchases in any channel. Catalogers who join the program create a customer credit card registration page on their sites.

How and When to Write an RFP

Requests For Proposals (RFPs) are the best way to escape a hostage situation with your vendors. They give you control over deadlines, quality, product requirements, service and how materials are shipped. Typically, RFPs are written to solicit a specific service from a vendor for merchandise or raw materials, telecommunications, printing, paper, ordering systems and fulfillment services. An RFP is a detailed request that provides product requirements, service terms and maintenance necessities to a vendor who responds with a list of capabilities and a price for his or her wares. Most catalogers begin searching for a vendor about year before they expect

Is Variable Data Printing Right for You?

An up-and-coming technology called variable data printing (VDP) offers catalogers a relatively easy and effective way to create highly personalized direct marketing pieces. VDP offers the ability to change text, graphics and even photographs from one printed piece to the next without stopping or slowing down the web press. As a result, these digital presses not only can personalize but also can customize information for each recipient, making one-to-one marketing easy. While VDP is not quite ready to create full-sized custom catalogs, it can deliver personalized mini-catalogs that offer superior response rates and increase loyalty, say experts. Presently, VDP is used mainly in

E-mail Response Differs in B-to-B

By Melissa Sepos In the business-to-consumer market, most response in e-mail is generated within the first 48 hours of sending the e-mail. Not so in business-to-business, says Kate McKay, e-list broker, Database Marketing Concepts. She says in business many people are deluged with e-mail and it sometimes takes prospects a week or more to reply. So don't use the same time frame business-to-consumer companies use. Try sending e-mails during the week. Monday is typically a high-volume day.

A Fulfilling Holiday

The guarantee was to take, fulfill and ship all orders the same day for delivery the following day, right up until 3 p.m. EST on Christmas Eve. The offer was 25 roses if customers didn’t receive their orders the following day., a luxury gift e-tailer, sent just 400 bouquets. Considering the volume of orders and the fact that Ashford delivered on its promise regardless of why the late delivery occurred, the number is remarkable. offers a wide variety of high-end products: diamonds, more than 20,000 styles of new and vintage watches, jewelry, fragrances, leather accessories, ties, scarves, sunglasses, writing instruments, home and

Case Study: Road Runner Sports Keeping Pace

The very thought of 235,000 running shoes is enough to make a runner swoon. I have known runners who keep a running shoe closet—when opened, no fewer than 20 pairs of shoes tumble out. Runners are a strange, quirky, masochistic bunch—knowing how to speak their language is crucial to making it in the mail-order running shoe business. But you really only have one person to consult—Mike Gotfredson. He is the founder and CEO of Road Runner Sports, the world’s largest running store, catalog and online business—and an avid runner. Gotfredson began Road Runner Sports in 1983. He had a wife, four

E-catalog-Learn From Those Around You (299 words)

By Melissa Sepos Making your customers feel valued can cost you as little as 10 cents. has long been touted for its one-click checkout, real-time package tracking and personalized book suggestions. In January, the company conducted a marketing program of an unusual nature. Amazon mailed an envelope containing 10 one-cent stamps with every order. The "convenience" envelope also contained a 10 percent off coupon, a promotional introduction to luxury retailer (see the Fulfillment story on page 69), and a letter: Dear Friend, From the start, one of our primary goals at has been to make the lives of our

Selling Sports Equipment

When teenage slackers want to get hooked up with the “dopest” gear, they have quite a selection of catalogs from which to choose. One newcomer is attracting attention. is created with flippant copy, detailed product specifications and hundreds of branded skating products. The mission of is to produce stellar Web site editorial, photography and entertainment that is leveraged to create a direct mail piece that has long shelf life and the ability to sell. Monsterskate is the sister publication of and, which serve surfing and snowboarding customers, respectively. is the company’s flagship publication. “ started in January

E-catalog Model Technology

It began on the Lands’ End Web site as a high-tech variant of paper dolls. Now, 3-D models are a popular feature of many online catalogs, including J.C. Penney, Eddie Bauer and The Sharper Image. The 3-D model enables shoppers to configure an electronic, rotating mannequin that resembles themselves. Everything from face shape to waist measurement to hairstyle is changeable. The model is designed to help consumers make apparel decisions by showing how a garment fits, falls and flatters. It also shows how a garment will work with particular hair and eye colors. Most of the sites with online models offer a complementary

Mercedes Retools its Fulfillment Operations

In 1999, auto manufacturer Mercedes found itself in an unusual position: Its customers were unhappy. In short, customers and dealers were clamoring because their merchandise hadn’t been shipped or was out of stock, or they had received the wrong products. For months, the company’s fulfillment operations had been building into a dreadful back-order situation. In addition to offering automobiles, Mercedes is a catalog and in-store retailer of car accessories and luxury Mercedes-branded merchandise for consumers and dealers, as well as a supplier of parts to its dealerships. Fulfillment has always been done by a third party, and in August 1999, backlogs

Beauty Breakthroughs

Beauty products have long been located at the center of the department store. Elaborate displays of glimmering containers piled high on shiny counters hold promise of a more beautiful person. Now that beauty products have taken hold of the American consumer, luxe powders, shadows and creams are coming to the front door. In the past few years, beauty products have been making their way into major catalogs, such as Neiman Marcus, Bloomingdale’s, Macy’s, Saks and Henri Bendel. Lower-end beauty suppliers have made their way into catalogs too. Cover Girl is currently targeting teens through the popular Alloy catalog. After several years of

Case Study: Multiple Zones International

There’s nothing like having a billionaire for a neighbor. Especially one that throws a little business your way, like Microsoft did when it named Multiple Zones International (MZI) its chief supplier of computer hardware, software and services. The contract is one of many changes taking place at MZI. Since moving online in 1995, MZI has seen fast growth in revenue and transactions, creating a $115-million company. What began in 1989 as a three-title catalog company with PC Zone, Mac Zone and The Learning Zone, has grown into a multi-channel retail operation that includes a new business-to-business division. The new Zones Business Solutions division is

Day with a Pro: Michelle Farabaugh, VP of marketing, West Marine

As senior vice president of marketing and strategic planning for West Marine, Michelle Farabaugh is one fast moving target. Her day begins with a 40-minute a.m. commute, during which she returns a entire voice mailbox of calls. In charge of creating and executing sales and marketing strategies for the Watson, CA-based company’s online, catalog, retail and wholesale sales channels, she typically works a 12-hour day, not including her morning drive. Farabaugh’s mission is to create new programs that drive profits and increase customer loyalty. As a young senior vice president, she subscribes to the motto that to succeed, you need “wrinkles or results.” Having