February 12, 2014

Frank and Oak

It's a frequent set of complaints from catalogers who have a customer base age 55+:

  • "How will anybody find our website without a catalog?"
  • "The USPS is going to run us out of business."
Well, if you've trained a 55+ year old customer for thirty consecutive years to only respond when a catalog is sent, then, well, yes, you're stuck with an ever-decreasing level of marketing productivity.

Here's one for you - Frank and Oak (click here please). It's mens apparel - online - that's not an easy category to make hay in, is it?


Did you notice? They have 1.1 million registered users. When you visit for the first time, you'll give your email address (catalogers, do you demand this after paying the co-ops a fortune to drive traffic to your site), you'll list your merchandising preferences, and then you're on your way with a customized merchandise offering (catalogers, do you personalize your home page based on a quick survey filled out by your customers).

The company is two years old. 1.1 million registered users. Two years old.

The company ships 35,000 orders a month ... if we assume a $100 AOV, that's nearly $40,000,000 a year ... if we assume a $150 AOV, that's nearly $60,000,000 a year.

Again, two years old, folks. Did your co-op add $40,000,000 in annual sales to your business in the past two years?

By the way, when you're filling out their survey, they ask for your age range. They lump everybody age 41+ into one bucket. This tells you something, don't you think?

We need to shop whining.

We complain that our $50,000,000 business might deal with jacked-up levels of postage costs, putting us out of business.

No, we're putting ourselves out of business. Old, stale merchandise, targeted to baby boomers.

New companies are born, without catalogs, with magazines only circulating to 50,000ish folks a few times a year - they capture data up-front (email address and user preferences), they offer a personalized assortment. 

We're whining about the wrong issues.

We can build a business without a catalog.

We can build a big business without a catalog (ask Amazon).

Maybe, just maybe, we all have to change.

Are we willing to change?

Discuss.