January 16, 2011

Dear Catalog CEOs: Misinformation

Dear Catalog CEOs:

We keep hearing about neat little companies with unusual names "reaping the rewards of social commerce".  Or mobile.  Or whatever the next big thing will be.

We hear the tired stories about Dell, Southwest Airlines, Best Buy, and Comcast, companies using Social Media to make connections with "fans".  We're told that their sales growth is linked to Social Media ... and then we see Best Buy post a -1.6% comp in December and nobody bothers to link the decrease to Social Media ... only increases are ever linked to Social Media.

We read a headline that suggests that Facebook AOVs are 7% to 10% greater than are AOVs for e-commerce ... then we read further, and find out that the metric only applies to a tiny company serving an under-twenty-five audience.

We're told that 2011 is the year of "integration" ... that you're already sunk if you aren't leading the mobile charge, and that if you aren't integrating mobile with all of your channels, you are providing a poor customer experience.  Research organizations study the habits of 883 Android users, then extrapolate the results to your brand, a brand they've never studied.

In other words, you are being misinformed.  Over and over again.

It's possible that there's never been a more important time to understand exactly who your customer is.  Certainly, there's never been a more important time to understand how your customers interact with channels.

You're going to find that some of your customers (for catalogers, many or most of your customers) are very "old school".  To them, "Android" is a character from a sci-fi movie, "Apple" is a fruit grown on a tree in Eastern Washington, and "Social Commerce" is a dollar auction at a Soroptimists meeting.

You're going to find that some of your customers are on the bleeding edge ... and it is quite likely that you aren't meeting the needs of that audience.

Your story is going to be different, likely very different, than the story told by trade journals, bloggers, conferences, the Twitterati, and associated pundits.  Filter the misinformation.  Be a leader.  Do what is right for your customer.

1 comment:

  1. Kevin,
    Great post! You couldn't be more dead-on. Getting to ACTUALLY know your customer is more important than believing the social media snake-oil salesman or the Microsoft Technology Futurist.

    Everything Old is New Again - it's time to role up your sleeves and really start to understand how your customer consumes content. Where do they consume it, what media do they use (or not use.)

    I think the difference today is that you need more than a demographic understanding of your customer, you need a deeper digital (or offline) persona that defines a number of your customers. You need to build a set of strategies designed to reach them in the right way at the right time.

    I actually believe that the reasons many catalogers are considering dumping their catalog is that they don't really understand WHO should be getting a catalog and more importantly what kind of catalog they should get.

    Maybe, the reason their catalog isn't working isn't because technology stole their audience, but their catalog hasn't changed to meet the changing needs of a specific type of consumer.

    Great insight. Thanks for sharing!
    - Drew

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