Dear Catalog CEOs:
One CEO told me how he responded to a trend in his market by designing and sourcing and delivering product to his customer in just two weeks.
Another CEO tells the merchandising team to invest energy in the assortment for Fall 2011.
Which business leader has a sense of urgency?
There are two components of modern catalog marketing.
The first component requires merchandising of the catalog. This process requires long lead times, thorough planning, and integration with the remainder of the business.
The second component is very different. The second component of a modern catalog business requires urgency. It is a process where the Merchandising and Marketing teams respond to trends and behaviors in real time. There is nothing wrong with the development of a product that debuts online, with support from e-mail marketing.
If you visit a media website, you'll notice "Breaking News" ... whatever content was scheduled to run is bumped for something that is happening at this moment.
Similarly, every modern catalog brand can respond to "what is happening right now". Not everything needs to be fully integrated with the catalog. Cultivate a web-based sub-business based on urgency, based on reaction to the marketplace.
When I hear that 80% of online sales are attributed back to the catalog in a matchback, I know that the business is not focusing on building an online business, instead, the business uses the online business as an order taker.
Urgency is a differentiator, it is a form of customer service that is not practiced often enough.