April 10, 2011

Dear Catalog CEOs: How Do We Contact A Customer?

Dear Catalog CEOs;

Here's one of the most interesting quotes of 2011, from a catalog leader:
  • "How do I create a catalog that an online customer will like?"
I'm not convinced that we are asking the right question.  Try asking this question:
  • "How do I create an experience that an online customer will like?"
In 1995, the cataloger appealed to a mass audience.  Today, the cataloger appeals to a niche audience.  This isn't good or bad, it simply "is" reality.  As a result, there are many customers that the cataloger could potentially appeal to:
  • Age 70+ = Likes catalogs, mails order with check via post office.
  • Age 60-69 = Likes catalogs, shops over the phone after receiving a catalog.
  • Age 50-59 = May like catalogs, shops online after receiving a catalog.
  • Age 40-49 = Transitional customer, online savvy, may like catalog brands, not catalogs.
  • Age 30-39 = Online shopper.
  • Age 20-29 = Social shopper?
Now, I realize these are gross over-generalizations.  But we need to make generalizations like this if we want to think about how we should contact a customer.  How do we maintain a relationship with a 34 year old urban customer?  How do we maintain a relationship with a 64 year old rural customer?

The 64 year old rural customer appreciates the catalog.

We need to do some work to figure out how to have a relationship with a 34 year old urban customer.  At some point, we need to cultivate relationships with the under-40 audience, relationships that do not include catalogs, if we want to be around in ten years, right?