Test Page Counts to Determine Online Impact
Dear Dr. pROfIt: We’re having an argument at work about page counts in our catalog. We currently mail a 96-page monthly catalog, and our vice president wants to reduce the page count to just 64 pages a month. I'm worried that if we do that, we'll lose sales over the phone and online. Currently, 70 percent of our catalog sales happen online. How do I convince our vice president to keep mailing 96-page catalogs?
Dr. pROfIt: This is one of the mysteries of this new decade. In the early days of the multichannel era, there was a direct relationship between the sales you drove online and the number of pages in your catalog. Consumers were used to shopping via catalogs, and thus were easily led. However, customer behavior appears to have changed in the past three years.
For many companies, telephone demand is still dependent upon the number of pages in their catalogs. But online demand has shifted away from being dependent upon the number of pages in catalogs. Modern customers are behaving differently than in the past. The catalog is now the stimulus that causes them to think about shopping on the web. Once consumers visit your website, their experience is largely controlled by your website — and not your catalog.
The best solution for this dilemma is to devise a test. Ask your vice president to take a subset of the merchandise available in a 96-page catalog and create a 64-page catalog with it. Then split your customer file in half. The first half of the file receives the 96-page catalog, the remainder of the file receives the 64-page catalog. After three weeks, carefully analyze sales across all channels. You'll get a very good idea if you or your vice president is correct.