April 2008 Issue


5 Most Useful Fulfillment Metrics

When establishing fulfillment center metrics, catalogers should use performance measures to drive a change in behavior. These help you track progress and meet goals. Turn that valuable data into meaningful and actionable information, otherwise it's analogous to having a data dump. Which metrics should you track? Consider your company’s goals and objectives, improvement opportunities, strategic projects and what’s most important to your customers. You may find that the most popular metrics often aren't the most useful. For example, the top metric, on-time shipments, shows how effectively your warehouse ships orders. But not if customers received their orders when they wanted or if orders were

7 Steps to Self Assessment

Do you wonder how your fulfillment operation performs against others in your industry? Do you know which processes you’re handling well and those that need improvement? Or even which processes have the most impact on customer service levels? Or which of them lower warehousing and fulfillment costs while improving performance? Benchmarking, the process fulfillment managers use to draw meaningful comparisons between their companies’ performances and industry standards, can provide answers to all these questions. First, consider the two types of benchmarking. • Performance Benchmarking compares quantitative performance results, or metrics, to those of several different companies or to industry standards. Its objective is

A Chat With April’s Profile, Tim Burns, brand manager of Edmund Scientific

Catalog Success: Where’s the company headquartered? Tim Burns: Tonawanda, New York. CS: What’s the catalog’s demographic? TB: We’re about two-thirds male, 35 to 55 [years of age] and they’re typically a professional. So a teacher, engineer, lawyer, doctor. We index really high in terms of those professions. So that’s pretty much what it looks like. CS: What year was the first Edmund Scientific catalog published? TB: The company was founded in 1942 and the first catalog was mailed in 1948. CS: What’s the primary merchandise offered in the catalog? TB: Science-related products, gifts and toys. So innovative, educational and science-themed.

Catalog Cost Cutting ’08, Part 1

Catalogers always need to know how to maximize their printing, paper and mail distribution programs, especially now that we all face more paper and postage cost increases. So this month and next, I’ll share some effective ways to squeeze more savings out of these programs. In this first part, I’ll expose 10 places where expensive fat is hiding in your paper and its printing process. Next month, it’s all postal. Squeeze the Press What you pay your printer to print your catalog pales in comparison to the amount you spend for paper and postage, but there are still significant savings to be had. The

Editor’s Take

There’s postal, then there’s everything else. This is our everything else issue. Not quite everything, of course. This is our operations and fulfillment-themed issue. And considering that an overwhelming majority of catalog/multichannel merchants handle their own fulfillment according to our quarterly Catalog Success Latest Trends Report, which focuses on management issues, the buck stops here with fulfillment. In our special cover report, Kate Vitasek, who helps companies evaluate their operations, and call-center guru Liz Kislik provide advice on fulfillment-center benchmarking, performance metrics and call-center rep attentiveness. This issue offers plenty of the other everything else, too, including a multipoint plan on hiring interns, a

Fraud Protection, Security Top E-Consumers’ Worry List

It’s not so much what you sell online, it’s how safe you can make that transaction. According to a recent national survey of 2,706 consumers conducted by JupiterResearch for eBillme, an online payment solution provider, 81 percent of credit and debit card users value fraud protection as the most important factor when selecting an online payment option. That’s four times more important to respondents than purchase rewards. Listed below are some more highlights from the survey. * 77 percent of credit card users said they’d accept changes in the online checkout payment process if it would enhance security; * when provided a

Keep ’Em On Their Toes

Some call-center employees stay with their companies for many years because their employers are generally fair, locations are convenient for them, the pay is good, the work isn’t too hard, and their coworkers are likable and supportive. Despite a good work environment, doing the same job day in, day out can get a little, well, boring. This not only results in a feeling of staleness, but it can also manifest in that rote, pro-forma voice that undercuts interactions with customers. So how can managers enrich or enliven the work environment to keep reps feeling and giving their best? Here are 10 ways to

Measuring Profitability Through Square-Inch Analysis: An Updated Approach

For catalogers, square-inch analysis serves as your scorecard. It’s a tool that tells you how much profit each item and page delivers. Some square-inch analysis is meticulously tabulated with the exact number of catalog pages each item occupied over the span of several catalogs. Other analyses are more casual, with less attention to the exact space allocation and total cost of the page space devoted to each item. But whether the format’s rigorous or relaxed, the data’s precise or just directional, the underlying purpose of square-inch analysis is simply to tell us whether an item is profitable. After all, why sell items that aren’t

Nail the Landing

Landing pages are the Rodney Dangerfield of most Web sites — they get no respect. Catalogers agonize over what words to use in a paid-search ad. They work the creative department to the point of rebellion to send out another e-mail. They give away prime, expensive space in their catalogs to promote their Web sites. But when it comes time to direct this precious Web traffic, most simply say, “Find a page on the site that will work.” To quote Rodney again, “It ought to be against the law!” Smart catalogers have figured out that they can double profits by creating targeted landing pages

Profile of Success: Experimenting with Time

HOW HE GOT STARTED IN THE CATALOG BUSINESS: Burns began his career with another science cataloger, Science Kit. Working in its bid sales group, he handled all the contracts and line-item bids with schools and school districts. Much of the educational market buys its science products via the bid process, Burns notes. (Science Kit acquired Edmund Scientific in 2001, and both are independently operated divisions of VWR Corp.) Following a brief hiatus with an Internet firm, Burns returned to cataloging in 2004 to become the brand manager of Edmund Scientific. He’s been with VWR for 10 years. WHAT CHALLENGES HE FACED UPON HIS RETURN

Quarterly Catalog Success (Now All About ROI) Latest Trends Report on Crucial Management Issues (April 2008)

Welcome to our third quarterly Catalog Success Latest Trends Report. This survey, which we once again conducted in partnership with multichannel ad agency Ovation Marketing, focuses on crucial management-related issues in the catalog/multichannel business. As with our reports in October and January, this new survey contains a statistical analysis of a questionnaire we sent to the Catalog Success e-mail list in late February and early March. The numbers are cumulative responses from the 71 B-to-C and 60 B-to-B catalog executives who responded. We break out separate B-to-C and B-to-B charts here on our Web site, as we didn’t have space for all of them in the print edition

See the Future, Then Stock the Future

It’s a problem as fundamental as supply and demand: When supply fails to meet demand, you have to back-order. When supply exceeds demand, you have overstock. When it all works according to plan, pinch yourself; you may be dreaming. Or, you may be one of the smart multichannel marketers who bucks business as usual to adopt a more realistic approach to the planning and purchasing of product. An approach called “continuous inventory” yields several benefits: • more predictable demand streams; • more accurate inventory levels; • special vendor pricing; • optimized shipping; and • improved customer experiences. The best part about continuous inventory

Shrewd Hiring Strategy for Tricky Times

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.” Could Charles Dickens have described the state of multichannel retailing any better over the past few years? Whether your business is doing well or could be doing better, whether you’re in a hiring or layoff mode, a sometimes overlooked, cost-effective strategy for recruiting and developing top talent — and a critical source for your workforce — is the hiring of interns. With so many computer- and tech-savvy young people out there, and technology and e-commerce playing such important roles in the future of the industry, some of the brightest, most talented


We hope you get the most out of this special report on operations and fulfillment. We chose a balanced array of three topics that should give you plenty of money-making and cost-saving ideas. Specifically, the articles focus on the top operations benchmarking strategies, the most useful and usable warehouse metrics, and an assortment of ways to keep your call-center reps happy and interested in their jobs. —Paul miller, editor-in-chief 7 Steps to Self Assessment: How better benchmarking can maximize performance in your fulfillment center by Kate Vitasek 5 Most Useful Fulfillment Metrics: Ponder your goals, gauge your progress and line up areas

Whitepaper Provides Cost-Saving Postal Optimization Tips

Catalogers seeking ways to cut their postal bills should consider postal optimization, a system to address their foremost concern, postage costs. According to a recent whitepaper distributed by the consulting firm Winterberry Group and sponsored by the Direct Group, postal optimization entails coordinating technologies, processes and physical formats with one goal in mind: reducing postage costs. This system takes advantage of two categories: volume and work-sharing discounts. Below are some tips from the whitepaper to help catalogers cut postage costs. 1. Commingling. This tactic combines direct mail from various marketers into a single mailstream to secure the highest volume and work-sharing discounts for

Who Needs Print, You Say?

PATIENT: Doc, almost all our orders used to come through the call center. Now 75 percent come via our Web site. We’re ready to give up on our catalog and go Web-only. Is that a good idea? CATALOG DOCTOR: To keep your Web business healthy, I advise keeping your catalog. You’ll be surprised how much the catalog drives both sales and profits. It’s probably the primary driver of Web site orders. PATIENT: But how can I know for sure? I need to be able to justify an ongoing investment in the catalog. CATALOG DOCTOR: Let’s look at four different ways to learn how

Why Catalogers Should Blog for Search

Search engine marketing is one of the most important advancements in marketing since television. Millions of people every day are simply typing their wants and needs into that little box and waiting for the good marketers to deliver solutions. The goal of every marketer is to be the one presented on that page saying, “Yes, I do that.” Before we dive into why catalogers should blog for search, here are two facts on Internet search every marketer should know. 1. According to a Pew Internet & American Life Project survey, 91 percent of all Internet users search. Search is tied with e-mail as

Why Microsites Don’t Work

Microsites focus on a specific product or product line. Unlike landing pages, the navigation and visual look are tailored to support that focus. To see the difference, compare www.positivepromotions.com/breast-cancer-awareness/c/4210 to www.positivebca.com. The first link shows an example of a landing page for breast cancer awareness products. The top navigation shows the entire product line the company sells, from health and wellness to imprintable items. Positivebca.com leads to a microsite on the same topic. The color scheme has changed to pink, and the navigation reflects only breast cancer awareness products. When you click on a top navigation link like Walks & Runs, you

Why Not Make it Amazing?

Maybe your products aren’t pretty like Pottery Barn’s, retro like Restoration Hardware’s or delicious like Dean & DeLuca’s, but that doesn’t mean your photography has to be boring. Eye-flow studies show that when customers browse catalogs, they look at the pictures first. If an image captures their interest, they then go through a well-documented decision-tree process. Get the picture right, and you’re in the game to score a sale. Get it wrong, and the customer turns the page. The secret to effective B-to-B photography is to focus on the benefits. Benefit-driven inset photos, along with the main product shots, are effective ways to

Your Responsibilities as Intern Employer

While internships provide less expensive, semi-skilled labor, they also entail a host of responsibilities you need to consider before you hit college campuses and start recruiting. Consider these five pointers: 1. Give interns meaningful work. Some small business owners operate under the misconception that interns should be willing to work 40-plus hours a week assembling widgets on the factory floor. Wrong. As the employer, you can’t lose site of the fact that internships must be designed to be learning experiences. In order for interns to learn, you need to give them meaningful work experiences. If you aren’t willing to trust interns with more than