May 22, 2011

Dear Catalog CEOs: 10 Non-Problems

Dear Catalog CEOs:

Last week, we talked about ten problem that will make life difficult for catalog brands.  Today, we talk about what people talk about ... perceived problems that aren't really that important.

Number 10 = Privacy:  E-commerce wonks are bent out of shape about "do not track", as if the worst thing that could happen to the world was a law that prevented two-hundred companies from dumping cookies onto your computer when you decide to visit a dictionary website to look up the meaning of the word "delitescent".  Just because you cannot track a customer doesn't mean the customer will not purchase from you.  Ever been to a Dunkin Donuts and paid cash for a cruller?  Dunkin Donuts can't track that purchase back to you without face recognition software (oh boy), and yet, you shopped at Dunkin Donuts and Dunkin Donuts generated profit from your transaction.  Privacy is a non-issue.  Do what is right for the customer.  If the customer doesn't want to be tracked, don't track the customer.  Focus efforts on generating sales and profit though merchandise excellence.

Number 9 = Multi-Channel:  You're told you have to be in all channels and that you have to be all things to all people.  Nonsense.  Now, be honest.  Have your sales increased at a rate that is greater than inflation since 2000, when the multi-channel mantra was beaten into us by vendors who benefit from multi-channel strategies?  Remember, you were told that multi-channel customers were the best customers, you were told you would "reap the rewards" of a loyal customer base if you were all things to all people.  Did you "reap the rewards"?  Not many did.  Going forward, focus your efforts on "anything that works"!  If you cater to a 26 year old customer, then, by all means, dive into social and mobile like your hair was on fire.  If you cater to a 62 year old customer, might it make sense to identify merchandise that a customer nearing retirement without the funds to support a modest lifestyle might appreciate?

Number 8 = Integration:  You are told to integrate all of your campaigns.  Horsefeathers!!  Again, do what is right for your customer.  There are a million failed integration-based campaigns that nobody ever talks about.  There are fifteen successful campaigns that are publicized constantly.  You are being misinformed.  It is really hard to leverage the benefits of each channel if you are required to homogenize each channel.  Use each channel based on the strengths of each channel.

Number 7 = Retail:  Retail destroys catalog brands.  You do not need to open a store.  When you open a store, you load up debt, and you require store traffic to cover your debt load.  Eventually, you'll gut your catalog circulation, or you'll marginalize your creative in order to appeal to a retail customer, destroying catalog/online productivity.  You'll acquire a ton of retail customers who have no intent to ever buy from your website or catalog.  In other words, you're "hooped", you become something other than a cataloger, you become a slave to comp store sales, and you become a slave to debt.

Number 6 = Youth:  So many brands are told that they have to attract a younger customer.  This is a mistake, a non-problem.  If your catalog brand attracts a 67 year old customer, well, you've got a veritable plethora of Baby Boomers about to enter your sweet spot.  There is nothing wrong with cashing out on the Baby Boomer population, then retiring your brand.  You are not going to attract a mass of 26 year old customers to a catalog brand.  If you truly care about catering to the youth market, create a separate, vibrant, youth-oriented brand ... profit from your 67 year old audience via catalogs, craft a separate brand to attract a different audience.  Do not try to make your current catalog brand relevant to a younger market, it's a strategy that is not likely to work.

Number 5 = Mobile:  You are not going to be out of business in six months without a vibrant mobile presence.  I read a quote from a technology expert in November 2010, he mentioned that retailers will be out of business in six months if they don't get on the mobile bandwagon.  Is anybody holding that person accountable?  I don't see companies shutting their doors in May 2011 because they failed to capitalize on mobile, do you?  Mobile is a "needs based channel".  This means that there's a subset of the population that "needs" information immediately.  If you're in a retail store, and an item is sold out, you have a "need" that can be met by a mobile solution.  If you are bidding on an item on eBay, you have a "need" to see if you won the auction, mobile is perfect for that.  If you are Newport News and you are selling a dress, well, does the customer need to know anything about that dress at one specific moment in time while sitting in traffic on I-494 outside of Minneapolis?  What is the need that mobile solves for your business?  If you cannot answer that question, then it is unlikely that mobile is terribly important to your brand, in the short-term.

Number 4 = Integrated Databases:  Now, I'm the exact kind of person who benefits from analyzing integrated databases, chocked full of data across all channels.  But be honest.  Where do you make the most profit in your brand?  That's right, by selling merchandise that customers love!  You can bend yourself into a pretzel trying to link-up online visitation data to your e-commerce order entry system, or you can have your analyst spend a little time figuring out why certain items are more profitable than other items.  In the past decade, we've completely gotten away from what it is that fuels our business ... the thing that fuels our business is merchandise productivity.  Customers must love what we sell, or everything else is pointless.  Sure, integrated databases are important, but they are not a priority!

Number 3 = Social CRM:  Have you heard about this movement?  The vendor community is busy marrying a failed concept (CRM) with a sexy channel that seldom delivers profit (Social Media).  It is not a problem if you do not have a Social CRM solution to manage highly engaged consumers.  If you don't have a solution, go old-school ... pick up a phone and call a customer.

Number 2 = Data Driven Culture:  This is a non-problem for most marketers.  You're constantly being told by the vendor community that you must have dashboards with KPI's (key performance indicators) that determine what your strategy should be. Goodness.  Marketing and Merchandising innovation fuel the success of a business, with dashboards and KPI's tracking the success of Marketing and Merchandising innovation.  Focus your efforts on Marketing and Merchandising innovation!!

Number 1 = The USPS:  Yes, I said that this is a non-problem.  This is a case of fear ... FEAR FEAR FEAR FEAR!  Sure, it won't be pretty if it costs 35% more to apply postage to a catalog, but it won't be the end of the world.  See, there's this unique thing called "the internet", a magical place where you've spent more than a decade building out the discipline necessary to generate sales.  Sure, it will be hard to find new customers without mailing catalogs with the assistance of Abacus-fueled names.  But you have leverage, folks.  Tell your favorite USPS advocate that you will simply cut them out of the picture if they want to sock it to you.  Show them that you'll go from twenty in-home dates a year to ten, and you'll trim circulation per drop by 30%, resulting in a 65% drop in circulation.  Sure, this will be painful to you, but again, you've worked hard to figure out how to drive e-commerce sales without the aid of a catalog over the past decade, so you can manage this, right?

Ok, your turn ... what are the non-problems you'd like to point out?

1 comment:

  1. #4 struck a cord with me as this is a goal of ours. However, more often than not, when I review the success of our email campaigns it is largely due to the products we offered. From my experience, at the end of the day, having good products at the right prices trumps everything else.

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