June 08, 2011

Retailers and Tablets

You've probably research Catalog Spree, correct?  Click here to take a peek.

One of the mistakes we're likely to see in the next few years is the "put a catalog on a tablet and you've got multi-channel success" mistake.

Again, we have to look at the data.  Customers who love B2C catalogs are largely age 55+.

Customers who love tablet devices are largely 30-39 years old (yes, I understand, 23 year olds love tablets and 71 year olds sometimes love tablets, I get it).  And, yes, I realize that catalogers will say that we are "multichannel", that because we have a website we're not actually catalogers, and then we'll mention that 33 year olds shop the website, so tablet devices could work.  I get it.

Retail brands and catalog brands are, of course, applying "what we know" to tablet devices.  We did this in the late 1990s, remember CD-ROM?  "We will put the catalog on a CD and put the CD in the mail and the customer will love it!"  Remember?

I'm not saying that a catalog on a tablet device can't work, it certainly can, and in many cases, it will work.

I am saying that we aren't thinking through the problem in an adequate manner.

What problem does a tablet device solve?  How do we use the device to solve the problem?  Does our customer demographic even use tablets?

Odds are that placing a catalog on a tablet device doesn't solve a problem faced by a customer.  There are catalogs in print, there's our website, and now, a third way to buy the exact same item.  We need to solve a customer problem.


  1. I've been reading your blogs for a bit, and I must say that you are negative in your views of technology. If you would offer a solution, then I would say you are offering constructive criticism. The reason CD ROM didn't work is that the web took over in popularity imo. I don't see the customer problem you are talking about. Apps are relatively cheap to produce and maintain if used with the right softwares. I received 3 different catalogs in the mail yesterday and it was nice to browse. Not one made any significant calls to action to get me online and purchase.... Times are a changing and the company that will leverage all methods of delivery will remain standing imo. Great blog btw.

  2. It's hard to see the problems I talk about if one doesn't have the data to analyze.

    Once you've parsed through dozens of individual datasets, datasets that have age information and customer channel preferences, you see things differently.

    My view of technology isn't bad ... my view of vendor hype surrounding technology is bad. Vendors tell you that if you only had a mobile app, your sales would increase 30%. So my clients go out and build apps, and their sales increase 0%. It's vendor hype and blogger lies that I have a highly negative view of!

  3. "My view of technology isn't bad ... my view of vendor hype surrounding technology is bad:. That, I agree with you 100%. I really enjoy reading your blog because you have an honest viewpoint. I am in the newspaper industry (and writing a business plan for a digital publication/direct marketing co) and reader eyes are worth more in print than online. Only now, are we seeing a shift in online advertising where the simple eyeball is increasing in value over a CTR. I find their are many parallels between print media and catalogers. I'm a numbers guy like you are, and companies like the Huffington Post have launched an entire online business model that catalogers should look at as a potential model. Yet, print media that are trying to adapt to their model are unsuccessful. Very interesting stuff.

  4. I frequently see catalog brands replicating the online strategies employed by really smart online brands ... but they, too, do not get the same results.

    It has a lot to do with the demographics of the customer, demographics trump strategy.


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