June 19, 2011

Dear Catalog CEOs: 35%

Dear Catalog CEOs:


That's a pretty important number.

If 35% of your direct-channel sales come from the mail/telephone channel, the average age of your customer is probably greater than fifty-five years old.

The rules of time seem to bend if your average customer is over the age of fifty-five.
  • Search is less a way to acquire customers, and more a way to identify a forgotten URL.
  • E-Mail marketing is seen as being a bit modern.
  • Facebook is a way to connect with friends and children, and is less a channel of commerce.
  • Customers are passionate about the content in a catalog, customers are likely to hold on to a catalog for more than three days.  Page counts reflect the breadth of your assortment.
Marketing seems to be moving in a couple of different directions.  

There's an under-40 audience.  This is the audience that you read about on Twitter, or in Trade Journals, or you learn about from Bloggers.  There's neat stuff happening there, of course ... there always is.

Then there's the 40-54 year old group, a segment of the population that's caught in-between eras.  This audience will shop online after receiving a catalog, and will give "f-commerce" as shopping via Facebook is called a try.  This demographic is willing to do just about anything.

The 55+ audience is different, willing to try new channels, but largely a creature of habit.  What worked in the past still works with this audience.  Some will have huge opportunities as demographics shift into the sweet spot of the brand.  Some will struggle, as customers age into retirement.

So many of you ask me "what happened" over the past decade?  You tell me you followed the multi-channel formula that should have yielded success, and yet, it did not yield the success promised to us.

In so many ways, a shift in demographics happened to us.  We applied our craft to our audience, and our audience aged as we aged.  In so many ways, our craft cut us off from a younger audience.  That is what happened to us.

You can tell if you cater to a 55+ audience.  Look at the percentage of sales that are sourced over the telephone, or through the mail.  If 35% or more of your sales come from those channels, you cater to a 55+ audience.

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