Retail's Struggles Are B-to-B Catalogers’ Gain
B-to-B catalogers always have had several advantages over retailers. They can maintain and offer wider and deeper product offerings as they're not limited to retail space. They can provide expert telephone sales and support, warranty and repair services, installation advice, and other “knowledge-based” services much better than a retailer can. Furthermore, new Web site shopping functionalities make it easy for customers to find, shop, learn, compare prices, order return and access a host of other related services much better than they could if they were standing in a store.
Now consider slumping retail sales and the impact of that on the ongoing viability of any and all retail stores. Think of the retail competitors in your market and what they might be doing to close marginal stores and cut their losses. Office Depot, Lowe's, Home Depot, CompUSA and others have announced store closings.
Also, think what will happen if this trend continues for another year or two. Consider the stores that remain and how they'll be cutting staff and services. And then there's inventory; inventory reductions impact product selection and in-stock availability. Could this benefit your B-to-B catalog company and present it with a unique opportunity?
Follow the steps below to help identify potential growth opportunities:
- Identify the retail competitors you have.
- Compile a list of all their stores and, in particular, the ones that may be closing.
- Target your catalog mailings to their trading areas. You might even communicate that “X store at Y location will be closing soon” and invite the shopper to try your offering.
- Ink-jet local messages on your catalogs. This can be a cheap and effective way to target local trading areas.
- Develop an appropriate “welcome offer.” Push your competitive advantages over retail, and give prospects a reason to try you now.
- Target your outbound telesales to businesses in the trading area of closing retail stores.
- Communicate to your customers in your catalog the advantages you hold over retail. For example, a headline like, “Is your neighborhood retail store closing? If so, we can help.” This might get your shoppers thinking about what would they do if their local sources of supply dried up.
With retail floundering, now's the time for direct marketers to stress their competitive advantages and steal market share from that channel. Good Luck!
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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.