October 10, 2007

Mailbag: Kill The Catalog

"You frequently talk about what will happen when catalogs go away. Maybe you don't understand cataloging. When we don't mail a catalog, nothing happens online."

I get this feedback a lot. Multichannel Forensics will clearly tell you what the relationship is between catalogs and a website.

Catalog = Isolation, Website = Transfer: This situation suggests that you mail a catalog, customers buy the product online, then the customer uses the telephone for future purchases. In this situation, your catalog means everything to you. Don't kill it!!

Catalog = Equilibrium, Website = Equilibrium: This scenario is what multichannel pundits talk about. Catalog drive e-commerce sales, e-commerce activities drive catalog sales. Everybody wins. Don't kill the catalog!!

Catalog = Equilibrium/Transfer, Website = Isolation: This is when you start to think about killing a catalog. The catalog sends customers to the online channel. Once the customer goes online, they stay there, and don't order over the phone anymore. Ordering over the phone is a proxy for catalog effectiveness. When customers shift their behavior online, and stay online, start seriously thinking about the future of cataloging. Could you match your catalog sales by shifting spend from catalog advertising to online and search marketing?

Catalog = Isolation, Website = Isolation: When this happens, then you have two separate customers, one that likes catalog, one that likes the internet. The customers don't cross-shop channels. In this instance, you can do whatever you feel is appropriate for your catalog and online channels. If your catalog is unprofitable, you probably won't hurt your online channel ... but you probably won't recoup the sales you lose by not having a catalog.

The key is to run the Multichannel Forensics analysis, and let your customers tell you what your strategy should be! Don't listen to me, don't listen to the gobbelty-gook that vendors and pundits toss at you. Simply do the Multichannel Forensics analysis, and let the data guide your thought process.

In the first two examples, you'd never kill a catalog. The catalog "is" your brand.


  1. Anonymous8:47 PM

    #3 states "start seriously thinking about the future of cataloging"

    what about going the other way, from website to catalogs? Maybe for a B2B merchant with an online store for convenience, but not enough volume of leads (searches) to grow the business.

    What does it cost to start a mini-catalog such as Dell's 6-12 page offerings?

  2. The challenge in #3 is that catalog customers willingly shop online, but online customers won't shop via the telephone.

    When this dynamic happens, traditional cataloging is in trouble.

    Advertising with paper, like you suggest, is perfectly acceptable.


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