May 21, 2008

ACCM 2008: Encouragement

I will say that the majority of the attendees I've spoken with have a certain pluckiness to them, a positive attitude.

Sure, there's some frustration and sarcasm. But by and large, folks have a general determination to persevere.

Most folks speaking with me about Multichannel Forensics projects are interested in mailing fewer catalogs to online customers. If a cataloger mailed twelve catalogs a year, they are looking to mail between four and eight catalogs to online customers, the full complement of twelve to pure catalog buyers using the telephone channel. Gone are the days of "Lands' End tried that in 1999 and it didn't work".

By and large, folks are talking about not saving money, but reinvesting it in various customer acquisition activities. Attendees learned plenty about online acquisition activities during the conference.

Whether it be green initiatives, huge increases in postage, third party opt-out services, or a lousy economy, the folks I spoke with are ready to take on challenges with a mostly cheerful attitude, are ready to begin the process of limiting mailings to those not interested in catalog marketing. A confluence of events appear to be moving multichannel folks down a path of advertising re-allocation, spending money online instead of in traditional print.

And some vendors are ready to help. Numerous exhibitors offered variable print solutions as well as print-to-digital conversion services. There is the possibility that catalogers will go beyond e-mail, using alternate digital technologies to communicate with customers interested in something beyond the static e-mail campaign.

Many other vendors appear to be struggling to "defend turf". Hearing that attendees are looking to cut catalog marketing expense, some vendors told me they are encouraging catalogers to not cut expense, but instead, mail catalogs smarter.

And all you e-mail bloggers and vendors, here's some encouragement for you --- you basically had no presence at this conference, in the exhibit hall or among hosted sessions. An industry looking to become more green, more digital, needs your help. You have an opportunity to help folks, I encourage you to get involved!

Many attendees talked about landing page merchandising --- sensing that customers are overwhelmed with choosing one item out of 248 that are available within a merchandise line. Landing page merchandising is highly correlated with catalog merchandising --- offering your best products and services, merchandised the way a customer likes to shop. One can see a future where catalog expertise transforms drill-down or search-based e-commerce. The combination of paid search and landing page merchandising is ideally suited for the direct marketers in attendance.

Many attendees told me that their focus is on "the brand", not "the catalog". This is a fundamental change from years past. Folks told me that customers feel connected to a brand that operates with honesty and integrity. A shift in focus appears to be in the early stages of development.

Overall, the attendees left me feeling encouraged about where things are heading. Three or four shocks to the system in the past year have some catalogers moving in new directions. That's encouraging!

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