July 19, 2007

Multichannel Retailing Week: Catalog Circulation

This morning, an article arrived in my RSS reader, promoting the power of catalog marketing.

You can't argue with the fact that more paper is being deposited into our mailboxes than ever before. Does the incremental increase in paper drive an incremental and proportionate increase in sales in the telephone, online and retail channels? Vendors don't answer that question for you.

Your catalog circulation expert knows the answer to that question. In fact, the catalog circulation expert knows the answers to more questions than almost any other marketing individual in your company. Ask the online marketing executive if natural search results in an increase in store sales, and see if you get an answer you can trust. Ask the e-mail marketing executive if e-mail campaigns cause customers to order merchandise over the telephone, and see if you get an immediate, confident answer. Ask the web analytics individual if an abandoned shopping cart resulted in a store purchase, and see if you get an honest answer.

But ask the catalog executive how effective catalogs are at driving sales to the telephone, online and retail channels, and you'll get an earful. You may not understand a geeky word that the catalog circulation expert says, but you'll at least get the inkling that this person has measured the concept, and markets to a combined ROI across channels.

So if the catalog folks have all this "tribal knowledge", why are they largely being under-utilized at many multichannel retailers? Why would multichannel retailers make the decision to eliminate traditional circulation teams and list vendor relationships in favor of an outsourced solution from the folks at Abacus?

Today, I am seeking your feedback on this topic, your thoughts on catalog marketers and catalog marketing.

If you work at a catalog/online retailer, or a catalog/online/retail organization, please share your thoughts about what you think about catalog marketing, and about the folks who do catalog marketing in your organization.

How do you view these individuals? What value do these individuals bring to your company? Let's not cloud things with my opinion --- let's get your thoughts on the topic. Please discuss!!