Despite a Surge in Popularity, Online Channel Remains Flawed
May 6, 2008

While nearly 90 percent of the 1,092 respondents surveyed in the latest Ouch Point survey from Opinion Research Corp., an infoUSA company, said they shop online, the marketing channel is still far from perfect. Twenty-four percent of the respondents cited purchased items having no resemblance to their images on the Internet as their biggest online shopping frustration. Here are some more noteworthy findings of the survey. * The inability to speak with a customer service representative at an online store was the second most cited frustration with online shopping (23 percent), followed by learning that items are back-ordered or out of stock after they’re

Whatever Happened to Precise DM Measurement
May 1, 2008

In ancient times — say 10 years ago — catalogers prided themselves on having a precisely measurable medium. They were the scientists of the marketing world. Most catalogers took the majority of their orders by phone and spent a great deal of effort capturing source codes and order IDs from every call. As computer technology and database expertise became cheaper and more widely available, we were not only able to measure precisely which customers responded to our mailings, but also what they bought and from which editions of our catalogs. We measured the performance of every square inch of every edition and smugly thought

How’s Your Long Tail?
April 22, 2008

I suspect many of you are now familiar with The Long Tail strategy first coined by Chris Anderson in 2004. Essentially, the notion suggests “selling less of more.” I view it as the 80/20 rule in reverse, and it’s often the topic of heated discussion between direct marketers and their accountants.
The strategy focuses on the inherent competitive advantage of a B-to-B (or B-to-C, for that matter) catalog company stocking as many items as it can in order to compete with retail stores or “net gnats,” who pick off your best-selling items and sell them online at a discount. A retail store’s space is

Worried About a Recession?
March 25, 2008

We’re reading a lot these days about the poor state of the economy and the likelihood of a recession. I think most of us believe that if we’re not already in recession, we’re darn close! So, what steps can you take to try to recession-proof your B-to-B direct marketing operation?
First, let me say that business cycles, particularly down cycles, are not all bad. During the good times, our businesses can get a little “bloated.” In the bad times, we need to cleanse.
Here are some tips to help your company survive these difficult times.
1. Gather your management team together. Brainstorm on how

Do You Make it Easy to Order on the Web? (My Bet is No.)
December 18, 2007

A true story: This past Sunday I decided to order a Christmas gift for our friends Doris and David and another for my cousin Suzy — ideally the same gift for both, something foodie and festive. I went to the following Web sites: Swiss Colony, The Wisconsin Cheeseman, Hickory Farms, Red Cooper, Fortnum & Mason,, See’s Candies, Ghirardelli Chocolate Co., Jelly Belly, Mrs. Field’s Gifts, Figi’s, Dean & DeLuca, Cross Creek Groves, Godiva Chocolatier, and Harry & David. All were happy to take my order for two of the same item. I could not for the life of me figure out how to

Variety a Driving Factor in Shoppers’ Favorite Online Merchants
October 9, 2007

According to STORES magazine’s inaugural Favorite 50 survey, conducted by BIGresearch, consumers are drawn most to Web sites that offer a variety of choices. Topping the publication’s rankings for customers’ favorite online retail companies was, whose broad product array connects with consumers. Following Amazon’s site was another site full of possibilities, The rest of the top 10 is below, followed by a list of all catalog companies ranked in the top 50. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9. 10. The following catalogers were also on the list (followed by actual rank): (13),

Four Reasons to Use Customer Reviews
July 1, 2007

Customer reviews are becoming an increasingly common way to use the online community aspect of the Internet to help convert visitors to buyers., CompUSA and other sites have been on record as saying customer reviews do lead to increased conversions. Here are four things you’ll want to consider: 1. Allow negative reviews? Absolutely. Including negative as well as positive reviews on your Web site makes you appear trustworthy. 2. Are they important? Heck, yeah. Ninety-two per-cent of online customers rated “customer reviews” as extremely or very helpful (the top-rated Web site feature) in a 2006 survey conducted by J.C. Williams/the e-tailing group. 3. Must they constantly

Web 2.0: What it Means to You
July 1, 2007

If you’re confused about what exactly Web 2.0 is, you’re in good company. This often-repeated buzzword has many Web site owners — not just catalogers — scratching their heads and wondering what the heck Web 2.0 is and whether their sites need it. Fear not. Web 2.0 actually is a broad term, closer to a concept encompassing a whole cluster of new tools and techniques used on Web sites. You didn’t see them three to five years ago. It’s not a software package you can buy from Microsoft or build yourself, but rather a catchphrase that denotes your Web site is keeping current with the

Industry Eye: Tech Talk and Catalogers’ Updates
February 1, 2007

Tech Talk ◊ Find Which Parts of Your Site Don’t Work Customer experience management solutions provider Gomez has launched Actual Experience XF, an on-demand service designed to measure the online customer experience. The product takes into account performance aspects such as download times, abandonment rates and service consistency. Actual Experience XF also measures the differences in retail site performance caused by geographic location, or user-specific parameters, such as browser type, size of browser window, browser cache use, and first-time or repeat visitor status. The solution measures the effect each of these factors has on sales conversion or shopping cart abandonment and lets online merchants figure out

Internet to Influence Almost 30 Percent of Holiday Purchases
November 7, 2006

Consumers will use the Internet for about 29 percent of their shopping this year, according to a recently released National Retail Federation survey conducted by BIGResearch. This includes both browsing and buying behavior. These shoppers are expected to spend an average of $791 on holiday shopping. Other data revealed by the survey: * 47.1 percent of consumers plan to make at least one purchase online this year; * 88.7 percent regularly or occasionally examine products online before purchasing in a store; * 23.6 percent start their product research on Google; * 7.2 percent start their research on Yahoo!; * 5.5 percent start their research