Bill LaPierre

The financial impact of inventory planning goes further and deeper than many companies realize. Direct Tech has developed financial return on investment analysis to precisely measure inventory’s impact on sales and profits. The numbers are striking.

In a session he led at the refocused Retail Marketing Conference in Orlando, Fla., Bill LaPierre, senior vice president of direct marketing and list firm Direct Media/Millard, discussed why traditional catalog marketers have encountered difficulty transitioning into online merchants. A recap of LaPierre's session follows, along with five pitfalls to avoid when shifting from a catalog-centric business to an online-driven operation.

Q:"Shipping costs are eating me alive. Customers want free or very low shipping, but they have no idea what that means for small online retail stores. Do you have any strategies to deal with shipping costs and remain competitive?"— Carla Rose, owner, Green and Chic

In tough times like these, companies often look for Band-Aids to slap over problems so they can get by. This year we all have problems, and the catalog business isn’t immune to them. In many respects, namely the losing battle they continue to fight with the USPS (although at press time, there was a glimmer of hope for postage to be adjusted downward for larger-volume mailers), catalogers are hurting worse than others.

For those of you who don’t ordinarily attend NEMOA events, they’re usually like minireunions of longtime catalog practitioners and typically have a big "Rah! Rah! Go Catalog!" flavor to them. But the mood and whole underlying tone at the Spring 2009 NEMOA Conference held a couple of weeks ago in Boston was different from any NEMOA event I’ve ever attended.

Speakers at The Direct Marketing Association's recent Catalog-on-the-Road conference offered some helpful hints for those engaged in e-mail marketing communications with their current customers: 1. Send order confirmations in html format, advises George Kiebala, vice president of sales, Experian Marketing Services. Most e-mailed order confirmations are in text-only format. But because more people are gaining access to html files, try sending customers pictures of the products they ordered — along with any appropriate cross-sell items — in your order confirmations. Caveat: Not everyone can access html, so periodically poll your customer base to determine availability. 2. Compel call center reps to gather

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