Nine Tips to Help Improve Your Outbound Parcel Shipping
August 1, 2004

Shipping and handling (S&H) complaints usually rank pretty high on the list of gripes customers have against merchants. At the same time, consumers rate parcel delivery companies as some of the best in customer service*. Is there a disconnect in the consumer’s mind, or is there more to this dichotomy than meets the eye? Catalog Success asked Jeff Kline, a veteran of catalog fulfillment, to share his advice on how you can increase the efficiency and reduce the cost of your outbound parcel shipping services — while at the same time maintaining or even improving your customer service objectives. Kline is president of

Case Study: Massage Warehouse Cuts Delivery Costs
July 1, 2004

Problem: Massage Warehouse was receiving delivery fines from shipping companies and returned packages due to incorrect customer address data. Solution: The company implemented QAS’ software to validate addresses using U.S. Postal Service (USPS) data. Results: Delivery surcharges dropped by 63 percent, staff productivity significantly increased, and customer satisfaction grew due to faster delivery times. When both delivery surcharges imposed by shipping companies and the number of returned packages began to rise due to incorrect address formats, Massage Warehouse realized it needed to adjust its customer address data management. For example, the difference between “Strt.” and “St.” as an abbreviation for “Street” was costing the

Postal Reform: Yea or Nay?
July 1, 2004

When I first started out in magazine editing 14 years ago, one of my tasks as a junior editor was to open the mail. It actually was a line item on my job description, because the duty was no small feat back then. Each day a hearty gentleman from our mail room would heave onto my desk a mail crate stuffed with press releases, flyers, letters to the editor and other mail. Back then I opened about 100 pieces of mail a day and rerouted each to the appropriate editor, our files or the trash. Today, however, I get a tiny folder of

Mail Dates vs. In-home Dates
December 1, 2003

Some catalogers prefer mailings that are based on in-home dates, while others use mail dates. There appears to be some confusion about which strategy to employ and why. Compounding this dilemma is the fact that some catalogers tend to use the terms “in-home dates” and “mail dates” interchangeably. But significant differences exist between the two. This month I’ll explore the pros and cons of each. I’ll also try to provide guidance regarding which mailing strategy is right for your catalog-distribution plan. Terms Defined Mail dates are defined as the day the mailing is to begin. The mailing generally takes place during a five-day

How to Develop a Reverse Logistics Strategy
December 1, 2003

Multichannel industry leaders such as Cabela’s, Talbots, Eddie Bauer, Neiman Marcus, Nordstrom, Lands’ End and L.L. Bean have established themselves as the standard-setters for returns processing, allowing customers the flexibility of returning goods with a no-quibble guarantee. But there’s a downside to a liberal returns policy: Companies have seen return rates increase every year for the past 10 years. For example, $5 of every $100 worth of goods purchased on the Web are returned, compared to $6 for traditional retailers, according to The Boston Consulting Group and And for many merchandise categories, returns rates are much higher. Moreover, the study found

Boost Your Revenue per Catalog Mailed
November 1, 2003

As a cataloger, no doubt you always want to increase the amount of revenue per catalog (RPC) mailed to your housefile and to outside prospects. As you boost circulation, your RPC will decrease since catalogs are being sent to lower-performing names, generally to prospects. So a general caveat: The more you mail, the less RPC you’ll achieve. Increasing RPC most often will result in increasing your bottom line. So if you grow by increasing circulation, how can you maintain or increase the RPC? This month I offer 10 proven ways to increase your RPC. 1. Add pages. By adding pages

Rethink Your S&H Rate Schedules
September 1, 2003

If you set your catalog’s shipping and handling (S&H) charges based on competitors’ rates, industry standards or consumer acceptance, you may need to update your strategy, say officials of The Direct Marketing Association (DMA). This is especially true for your online orders. Here’s why: Today’s consumers are more knowledgeable about S&H charges, and some even have won class-action lawsuits against companies that they think overcharge. To combat this consumer backlash against high S&H rates, The DMA advises the following when devising fees: • Make them reasonable. “You must be able to clarify and justify to consumers that your S&H rates have

How to Profitably Use Mini Catalogs, Solos and Flyers
September 1, 2003

What if you could achieve double the response rate you currently earn with your catalog mailing? What if you could mail for much less than the cost of the catalog? And what if you could do all this and make a profit? You can. Highly targeted, lower-cost marketing communications vehicles such as mini catalogs, solo direct mail pieces and flyers complement your catalog mailings. An advantage business-to-business (b-to-b) catalogers have over consumer catalogers is their knowledge of purchasing motivators, industry-wide purchasing patterns and product life cycles. Think about it: Customers in certain industries buy during specific times of the year, while others buy

Reform Reservations
September 1, 2003

The President’s Commission on the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) recently issued its recommendations on postal reform. Indeed, some of the ideas generated by this esteemed group may actually help turn around the beleaguered USPS — that is, if the Commission’s suggestions actually are approved by Congress and the subsequent implementation is smartly done. I especially like the idea of expanding retail access to postal products and services. And the work-sharing discounts is a plan that strikes me as particularly insightful. I encourage you to read the recommendations for yourself, and tell your congressional representatives your thoughts on them. You can find a

Mac’s Revs Up Catalog Fulfillment
August 1, 2003

Problem: It took Mac’s Antique Auto Parts several weeks to fulfill catalog requests. Solution: Implemented QuikPak’s catalog-fulfillment service. Result: Prospects now get catalogs within seven days of their requests. Multi-title niche cataloger Mac’s Antique Auto Parts, a supplier of replacement parts for vintage and classic Ford vehicles, couldn’t seem to deliver catalogs to requesters in less than four weeks. That was before January 2001 when it implemented a new catalog-fulfillment service. Back then, Mac’s mailed its 12 catalog titles using bulk rates through a service located near its Lockport, NY, headquarters. Because each of the catalog titles has a different weight, it took