November 2006 Issue


Case Study: Deferred Payment Solution Increases Ross-Simons’ Q4 Conversion

Problem: Ross-Simons wanted to make its luxury products more affordable without lowering prices. Solution: It implemented a deferred billing program. Results: Conversion rates during seasonal, deferred-billing promotions experienced double-digit increases. A few years back, Ross-Simons recognized that its customers had limited options when it came time to pay for their purchases. When customers ordered online or over the phone, “it was either take the Ross-Simons credit card or pay with your Visa,” says Larry Davis, the multichannel jewelry, home décor and accessories merchant’s vice president of marketing. “We wanted a more flexible solution.” Although the Cranston, R.I.-based company had a house

Contributions to Profit: Plan for 2007, Part II

Last month in this column, I defined the basic psychological and behavioral groupings of prospects and customers as suspects, prospects, triers, buyers and advocates. Developing marketing plans with these groups in mind can increase your results and profitability. This month, in the second of a three-installment series that concludes in the December issue, I’ll explore some strategies and tactics you can implement to accomplish this. For the purpose of this discussion, let’s assume that you’ve done a proper circulation plan and already know who you suspect will become your customers. Your suspects have become prospects by way of list research, and you’re ready to develop

E-commerce Insights: Take a Page From the 14th Century

What online offers are most effective today? To answer this question, I’ll revisit 14th century Japanese poetry, tap the insights of experts at the three leading search engines and talk return shipping with two leading online retailers. Today’s Advertising Haiku Haiku is a Japanese poetic form dating to the 1400s. Haiku poems consist of three lines of five, seven and five syllables. When written well, these poems can pack a powerful emotional punch. Today’s online advertising equivalent of haiku is paid search advertising. Taking Google AdWords as the archetype, a pay-per-click ad consists of a 25-character title, two 35-character lines of ad copy and a 35-character

Editor’s Take: How Dell (May Have) Lost Me

At press time, I had nearly completed this column when a rather unforgettable customer experience caused me to drop what I was doing. I wound up ripping up the old column and wrote this. Hopefully, there will be a lesson to be learned by all — at least by computer giant Dell on how not to handle a valued customer. My wife, Donna, bought a Dell Inspiron 6000 notebook computer in July 2005. Naturally, it worked fine for her; that is, up until the day after press time when the battery apparently died. She and I figured we’d call Dell and have what was

IndustryEye: The Great NEMOA Debate

Using promotions excessively can be like dealing with the devil. Promote too much, and you not only give customers the impression that you’re an off-price bargain house, but also your profit margins can tumble. One of the livelier sessions held during the New England Mail Order Association (NEMOA) conference in late September was a staged debate in which panelists and audience members argued about the need for catalog promotions. To fuel the fire, response data from a recent Mokrynskidirect catalog client survey was thrown into the mix for each issue tackled. The debate brought out some issues for all to ponder. Below, are the

November’s A chat with Ashton Harrison, founder, president/CEO, Shades of Light

© Profile of Success, Catalog Success, November 2006 * Check back in January for an all-new Profile of Success in-depth interview with an industry expert. Catalog Success: How did the company/catalog get started? Ashton Harrison: We opened a retail store in 1986, launched the catalog in 1995, and started the Web site in 1999. Before that I worked for a furniture company. They had 40 stores when I left. I was with them from the time they had seven stores up to 40 stores. CS: So you struck out on your own to start a retail store. AH: Yes, that’s right.

Paper Buying Tips

1. Get the best price. Be flexible about the paper brand. Instead of asking for a specific brand, say, “What’s my best buy on a No. 3, 60 lb paper, and I prefer blueish tones to yellowish tones,” to find the best-price options in your range. 2. Be flexible about paper grade and weight. If you’re willing to trade down, sometimes the savings are substantial. 3. Get quotes from your printer and broker. Include all costs. 4. Ask your printer about its “house” papers. Printers have a full range of papers they regularly buy in large volumes. 5. When buying your own paper,

Postal Remedy: New, Lighter Papers

Ever since the U.S. Postal Service implemented the first of several blockbuster double-digit rate increases back in the late 1980s and early ’90s, many catalogers have been readying themselves for subsequent rate hikes with cost-cutting measures. The most prevalent one has been, and continues to be, a reduction in paper weight, as well as trim size. Many mailers have trimmed about as much as they can over the years from their books’ dimensions. And with a 9 percent increase in Standard mail postage looming for next spring, which comes on the heels of another postage increase earlier this year, testing out lighter paper grades

Profile of Success: Ashton Harrison, founder/president, Shades of Light

Background: After helping another home furnishings marketer expand from seven retail stores to 40, Ashton Harrison decided to strike out on her own and founded Shades of Light as a retail store in 1986 in Richmond, Va. Nearly a decade after starting her company, Harrison noted that many of the shoppers in her store were from out of town. Wanting to better serve these customers, she launched a catalog in 1995 so, “we didn’t have to open retail stores all over the place,” she reflects. Biggest initial challenge: Although she had a valid reason for starting the catalog, Harrison admits she didn’t know what she was

SEO: Score and Tie Those Leads!

If list generation is one of the objectives of your search marketing campaign, think about scoring those leads and tying those scores back to the source. Not all leads are created equal. Some have better lifetime value. What questions can you ask at the beginning of the process to get more of the leads that you really want and less of the ones that you don’t? —Kevin Lee, founder and executive chairman, search engine marketing firm

Strategy: Make Matchbacks a Routine

Matchbacks have become routine for catalogers. This is the process in which you check your orders against your recent mail tapes to give credit to the proper source code — to see where sales are originating, and which key code should be given credit for each sale. With the amount of business going to the Web, it’s next to impossible to track results to a specific source code without doing a matchback. How a Matchback Is Done Matchbacks link orders to mailings using merge/purge logic. The process allocates unknown orders back to mailed records based on customer-provided source code, customer number, merge/purge results,

The 50 Best Tips of 2006

What better way for a tips-oriented business magazine to wind down 2006 than with the top 50 tips of the year? My staff and I spent the past several weeks going through every article that’s run so far in Catalog Success and the Catalog Success Idea Factory e-newsletter this year to bring you the ultimate how-to “cheat sheet.” Throughout these pages, we’ve synthesized the year’s best tips, summarizing, and in some cases quoting directly, from stories and/or the sources themselves, where noted. Below each, you’ll see the industry expert who offered the tip. We reference the issue from which the tips originate so