December 17, 2015

Catalog Craig and Digital Dan

It's a discussion including Catalog Craig Paperman and Digital Dan Disruption. Yes, this is fiction. If this isn't your cup of tea, try viewing updates to my big presentation on customer acquisition (click here).


Kevin: I suppose you are wondering why I called you all here today?

Catalog Craig: I hope this is a short meeting. I am busy paginating catalogs for Fall 2016 and cannot be delayed.

Digital Dan: You are paginating ... wait, what?

Catalog Craig: We're planning for Fall 2016. 

Digital Dan: That's crazy.

Catalog Craig: How else do you know what is going to be featured on page 74 of the November Remail II catalog, due in-home on November 29, 2016?

Digital Dan: Who has time to do that? We have to read the results of our optimization test this morning, and then change what we feature on key landing pages this afternoon.

Catalog Craig: Wait. What?

Digital Dan: I know, I know, we're old school. Some say we focus too much on the desktop/laptop experience.

Catalog Craig: Did you just say you tested something this morning, with the intention of acting upon the test this afternoon?

Digital Dan: Again, we're old school. We should be reacting in real time. But at least we're moving forward. It's a data-driven world, and we're a small piece in the Big Data puzzle.

Catalog Craig: I agree with the data-driven thesis. We apply our square inch analysis to make sure that the remail of the remail of the November catalog is perfectly merchandised.

Digital Dan: You mail the same catalog three times?

Catalog Craig: With three different covers. You have to spice things up, make the customer experience as engaging as possible.

Digital Dan: And you are spending time on December 18, 2015 to plan a catalog that will mail in eleven months?

Catalog Craig: We like to think we are a disciplined organization.

Digital Dan: What are you doing to drive sales today, this afternoon?

Catalog Craig: That work happened months ago. Today, we sit back and measure hourly sales against our projections. Now, to be fair, we altered our projections three times this week.

Digital Dan: So you spent your valuable time altering the precision of your sales measurements?

Catalog Craig: How else are we going to improve forecast accuracy?

Digital Dan: We're going to blow past our forecast this afternoon, once we adjust the website after analyzing the results of our morning website test.

Catalog Craig: You don't care about forecast accuracy?

Digital Dan: We care about driving sales.

Catalog Craig: But if you grow sales among items that are nearly sold out, you will sell out, and then you will disappoint customers.

Digital Dan: We feature items online that are not close to selling out.

Catalog Craig: See, we can't do that. We can only feature items online that are aligned with the catalog that is currently in-home.

Digital Dan: Why?

Catalog Craig: Because the customer demands an integrated experience across channels.

Digital Dan: Did you execute an online survey to learn that fact?

Catalog Craig: No, we read an article in a trade journal. The article was written by a vendor that sells solutions that require an integrated experience across channels, but I wouldn't let that fact bias a sound strategy.

Digital Dan: We are optimizing in near-real-time because we attended a conference and a vendor presenter said that's how you grow.

Catalog Craig: Does the vendor optimize in real-time?

Digital Dan: No.

Catalog Craig: Why not?

Digital Dan: The vendor said the rules are different in B2B, so they don't have to use the solutions they sell to us.

Catalog Craig: Fascinating.

Digital Dan: Same thing with Google. They told us how magical digital was, so we moved all of our marketing spend into the digital realm. They said offline marketing was unaccountable.

Catalog Craig: I saw a billboard for Google in Downtown London earlier this year.

Digital Dan: You did?

Catalog Craig: And I saw a TV commercial for Android.

Digital Dan: You did?

Catalog Craig: Seems like Google chased you out of the offline world so that more eyeballs would focus on unaccountable marketing while you spent your digital dollars with Google.

Digital Dan: But we're spending digital dollars in real time!

Catalog Craig: How do you know that all of your real time optimization is best for your business, long-term?

Digital Dan: Huh?

Catalog Craig: I assume you measure the long-term impact of all of your real-time digital initiatives, right?

Digital Dan: Huh?

Catalog Craig: For instance, the changes you make to the website this afternoon, those changes will impact the long-term trajectory of your business. You thoroughly understand the long-term impact of these changes, or you wouldn't make the changes, right?

Digital Dan: We A/B tested. "B" won. "B" was best. End of story.

Catalog Craig: That's why we plan our catalogs eleven months ahead of time. We want to make sure we control our future. You let "B" win. Maybe "Q" was best?

Digital Dan: "Q"?

Catalog Craig: Your future is determined by limited A/B testing based on short-term results. You never get to "Q" because you only theorize around A and B.

Digital Dan: But what you are doing is less efficient. Planning eleven months out. That's crazy talk.

Catalog Craig: In the short-term, yes.

Digital Dan: Our A/B tests guarantee that we are more efficient.

Catalog Craig: In the short-term, yes.

Digital Dan: You are just saying that because you don't want to go to all the effort and discipline required to perform the A/B tests we perform each day.

Catalog Craig: True.

Digital Dan: See!

Catalog Craig: But you still have no idea if what you are doing is right for your business in the long-term, or if you just end up with an e-commerce version of Buzzfeed.

Digital Dan: And you have no idea whether your eleven-month planning cycle is right for your business, or if you just end up with a modern version of Montgomery Wards.

Kevin: Enough. I'm bored.

Catalog Craig: But who is right?

Kevin: You are both right. And you are both wrong. That's the magic of business.

Digital Dan: But we never got to personalization, relevancy, and engagement. I have so much more to say.

Catalog Craig: And I never got to talk about the power of paper arriving in a mail box. Ohhhhhh ... paper.

Kevin: We're done!


Now, if you didn't like reading a fictional argument that didn't solve anything but should serve as a metaphor for your experiences, then give the updated version of this presentation a read-through (click below if you do not see the presentation box):