May 01, 2014

The Catalog Opportunity

These folks aren't reading the Huffington Post via an app on a Samsung Galaxy S5 phone, are they?

Do you remember watching Seinfeld? Elaine worked at the J. Peterman catalog. It was the mid-90s, before e-commerce. Catalogs were e-commerce ... on paper ... they were p-commerce!

Did you know that Jerry Seinfeld turned 60 years old a few days ago?


There is a catalog opportunity among the customer I call "Judy" ... 54 - 69 years old. We're going through a great "de-tethering", folks. Ten years ago, you were told you had to integrate your catalog with newer channels. Today, you're better off "targeting" your catalog to only those who care about it. Much, much better off. In fact, you are almost better off creating two brands - one a catalog brand targeted specifically to Judy - one an e-commerce brand (with different merchandise, by the way) targeted to Jennifer.

That's what my Contact Strategy projects point out - repeatedly (click here). These customers, having been trained since the 1970s to shop catalogs, can actually generate more profit by being mailed more catalogs - not fewer catalogs - more catalogs!

We're about to see a major shift in strategy.

Catalogers, who spent a decade trying to be all things to all people (#omnichannel), are about to become something important to some of the people. There's simply too much waste trying to be all things to all people.

Yes, I get it. This means the cataloger probably becomes smaller, and much more profitable. It also means that the merchandise assortment shifts, rather dramatically in many cases. Yes, I get it, you don't want to become smaller. So go ahead and fight the headwinds (but heck, create two brands and then you solve this problem - but make sure the Jennifer-centric brand has a Jennifer-centric merchandise assortment and a Jennifer-centric creative strategy and a Jennifer-centric online marketing strategy).

Paper is going to be way, way, way too expensive, when put up against a 33 year old shopper who has the entire world available on her phone, 24/7/365. And this 33 year old isn't going to want to buy the products and services that appeal to the couple pictured above.

Catalogers are about to "de-tether" ... for good or bad. The economics of mailing catalogs will require it.

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