For the past two decades, I have written and spoken worldwide on the future of the catalog industry. My position has always been to challenge conventional thinking, and I have been right on some things and wrong on others, but hopefully always provocative. My early thoughts on the future of the Internet (1994) and its influence on catalog and direct marketing have been, for the most part, accurate. I predicted the growing importance of e-mail marketing, permission-based databases, proprietary databases and the surety of dynamic pricing as an outgrowth of self-directed, online commerce. In 1997, I was correct in my assessment of
E-mail marketing is new for many catalogers, and most are now concentrating on growing an in-house e-mail file. Some have started weekly or monthly newsletters that contain specials, and others are sending promotions. While many are becoming comfortable with the process of creating e-mail marketing messages, the competition for customers’ attention is growing. In the near future, it will become important for catalogers to set themselves apart from other e-mail marketers. As with print catalogs, several response-boosting techniques are worth testing in e-mail. Looking for Lists Most catalogers are working with their own housefiles right now. They have e-mail registration on
In today’s highly competitive catalog arena, service has become a make-or-break proposition for many companies—not a nicety. To stay in the game, it’s imperative that catalogers provide real service to their customers, not just lip service. “Service should benefit the customer, not just be a marketing tactic for the company,” says telemarketing consultant Liz Kislik, of Liz Kislik Associates. “Failing to meet this need by providing inadequately trained and/or non-service oriented [customer service] reps will guarantee failure,” adds Frank Fuhrman, director of sales, customer contact services, for DialAmerica Marketing, a telemarketing firm in Mahwah, NJ. The firm works with catalogers in the giftware,
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
Marketing online is cataloging in reverse. Instead of mailing to your housefile, you use it to lure prospects to your Web site. Using high-speed automated databases, Web sites can make judgment calls about what products to offer to which consumer and can treat valued customers differently than prospects. That’s because you have a mix of customers who know you and customers who don’t, so changing your Web site to suit each customer is just as important as versioning your catalog or knowing which products will appeal most to a certain consumer. Tailoring the online offer to the shopper increases the chances of purchase.
Producing and mailing a catalog can be a most expensive undertaking. With alternate media you can achieve some of the same goals as with a print catalog: Testing, driving customers (new or existing) to your e--commerce site and building awareness/loyalty. Speaking at the Annual Catalog Conference in June, Kevin Kotowski, of Olson Kotowski & Co. in Los Angeles, named some top reasons catalogers use alternate media, or “non-catalog pieces:” 1) cheaper prospecting than with full-sized catalog drops, since most alternate media are cheaper to produce and mail; 2) building and strengthening your customer relationships with name and product awareness; 3)
Designers and marketers see both limitations and advantages in Web-site creative. The overarching limitation is a lack of control in the appearance of the end product because of differing technologies on consumers’ computers. On the flip side, Web sites can be altered “on the fly,” making them a more dynamic place for testing and learning about customer preferences. Deborah Kania is lead marketer at multichannel optical supplier Lens Express in Deerfield Beach, FL, co-author of “The Web Catalog Cookbook” and “The Internet World Guide to One-To-One Web Marketing,” and author of the upcoming book “Branding.com.” She observes, “Two of the biggest changes
It is happening more often—an interesting reverse trend. New e-commerce companies recognizing the need to create greater awareness are producing print catalogs to help accomplish that task. Flush with Internet success, the exciting reality of creating a Web site and actually attracting visitors from everywhere who browse and buy spurs these companies to create new categories of catalogs. The Naissance maternity catalog is typical of this phenomenon. Naissance began operations two years ago as a retail maternity shop in a prestigious mall in suburban Los Angeles. The Internet site, www.naissancematernity.com, was developed soon afterwards. While the retail shop new business from as
A move from pure play to cataloger—that’s the trend in the online retail industry. After years online, pure-play retailers are discovering that catalogs are cost-efficient customer-acquisition and branding tools. But despite moving into the mail order world, pure plays do not consider themselves catalogers. Lisa Sharples, co-founder of Garden.com and the force behind that company’s recent print catalog drops, is straightforward about its catalog’s purpose—driving customers to the Garden.com Web site. Unlike many entrepreneurs who launch catalogs as extensions of their avocations, she didn’t start Garden.com out of enthusiasm for gardening. Sharples and her partners wanted to start an online business in a
A single customer contact center presents one company message across e-mail, Web chat and telephone calls As catalogers move business online, they are noticing an increase in the number of incoming calls to the call center. Theoretically, the Internet is supposed to reduce the number of calls. But Web sites, especially commerce-enabled ones, are generating more contact for catalogers. Many of the incoming calls are for customer service. The customer is on the site, they have loaded up their shopping cart, but they have a question about the color, the size, the quantity or they can’t figure out how to complete the transaction.