Catalogs Go Back to the Future
I'm a longtime cataloger marketer, and I'm intrigued at how the new generation of e-commerce marketers are beginning to sound more and more like circulation managers. I took part in a meeting the other day where performance variables of a particular company’s Web site were discussed. The question on the table: How do we get more out of the Web site? Here's a recap of what was discussed. (Note the similarities to catalog mailing.)
* On increasing site traffic (i.e., circ), a question was posed: How could more qualified visitors be attracted to the site through an optimal combination of organic — driven by site keywords/phrases, site links, optimal navigation, among others — and paid search?
* Then the focus shifted to response rates and conversions. What could be done to get more visitors to place orders from those site pages? Banner ads, promotional offers, cross-sells and upsells were all discussed.
* A discussion ensued about average order value and how it could be improved by driving more units and line items per order.
* Up next was customer retention. Once you have that first order, how do you keep customers coming back to your site for future purchases? Welcome e-mails, parcel inserts and ways of recognizing returning customers were all discussed.
* And lastly came the discussion about how various media — catalogs, print advertising, sales forces, e-mails, Web sites, etc. — could be used together so “1+1=3.”
If you leave out the fact that we were talking about the Web, this was exactly the type of conversation that could've taken place 20 years ago. The point is that the discipline of direct marketing has remained the same for many years. Yes, the medium has changed and the balance of the marketing mix has changed, but the disciplines of circ, response, orders, average order value, customer retention, housefiles and others are still very much the basics of the business.
Truth be told, I was glad to see it. I was also glad to see that in these difficult times, there's at least one smart company that knows that by managing the basics excruciatingly carefully, it'll survive this recession and be in better shape to prosper in the future.
Terence Jukes is president of Ability Commerce, a 140-person firm that designs, builds and runs e-commerce and related marketing programs for catalog companies. He can be reached at TerryJ@AbilityCommerce.com.