July 15, 2019

Gliebers Dresses: We're Not Gonna Do That!

Yes, this is fiction. But you don't have anything better to do today than read something like this ... it's the middle of July for crying out loud. So you are going to sit there in your comfortable office chair and you are going to enjoy this, #amirite?

Setting:  The Gliebers Dresses Executive Conference Room.

Glenn Glieber (Owner):  You know, I had big hopes for the Red Sox this year. Every team in New England should at least get a chance to play for a championship. But this year the Celtics failed and the Red Sox appear to be doing the same. What am I supposed to do this October?

Lois Gladstone (Chief Financial Officer): Spend time running the business?

Glenn:  What?

Lois:  Nothing.

Meredith Thompson (Chief Merchandising Officer):  You're assuming we'll still be in business come October, with all of the tariffs and other stuff going on.

Glenn Glieber: We're always dealing with headwinds.

Roger Morgan (Chief Operating Officer):  Headwinds schmedwinds.

Glenn Glieber:  What?

Roger: Nothing.

Pepper Morgan-Pressley (Chief Marketing Officer):  I think Roger is suggesting that we control our own destiny and that we shouldn't try to find blame to make ourselves feel better.

Meredith:  Is that what you were thinking, Roger?

Roger:  I don't know. Regardless, I just finished reading this fascinating paper from Woodside Research.

Lois:  Oh here we go again.

Roger:  The paper, priced at $995, is the only paper that Woodside Research has released on the catalog industry since their ill-fated 2004 document titled "Catalogs and Retail 2020: The Golden Combination".

Meredith:  Woodside Research is talking about catalog brands? Did they mention us in the report?

Roger:  No. But they talked about a concept that is really intriguing. It's called Bifurcation.

Glenn:  Is that a show on Fox News?

Roger:  No.

Glenn:  CNN?

Roger:  Woodside Research says that Bifurcation is the endgame of catalog marketing. They suggest that as the traditional catalog audience retire, specifically, Baby Boomers, that catalog marketing will split into two pieces. The small piece will be customers age 55-74 who are retiring and have no interest in anything outside of traditional catalog marketing. Meanwhile, almost all other customers will care about e-commerce and have no interest in catalogs whatsoever. Over time, the e-commerce cohort will overwhelm the catalog cohort, ending traditional catalog marketing.

Meredith: I hate Woodside Research.

Roger:  No really, listen. They say that the small cohort that still adores catalogs will REALLY adore catalogs. They say you'll be able to mail them forty or more times per year.

Lois:  How many?

Roger:  Forty!! Or more.

Meredith:  Oh, we're not gonna do that.

Roger:  Do what?

Meredith:  Mail forty catalogs a year to a customer. We don't have the creative staff to produce forty catalogs per year. That's nuts.

Roger:  They're not saying you need forty traditional in-home dates. They're saying that printers can dynamically create 16 page or 32 page catalogs with merchandise personalized to the interests of the customer.

Meredith:  We're really not going to do that!

Roger:  Why not?

Meredith:  Well for starters how will I forecast inventory?

Roger:  How do you forecast inventory online when you have no idea what keywords Pepper is buying?

Meredith:  What are you doing without my permission Pepper?

Pepper:  I'll tell you what I'd like to do without your permission.

Meredith:  What?

Pepper:  Nothing.

Roger:  The whole online side of the business is run without knowing where traffic will come from. It's a big mix of business. Traffic comes from catalogs, from search, from social.

Lois:  How many customers come from social, seven?

Roger:  The point is, you have no idea what customers from channels outside of the catalog are going to buy, and yet you somehow forecast inventory properly.

Meredith:  I'm not sure about that.

Roger:  So all we have to do is find a partner who can help us dynamically merchandise the catalogs at a customer level.

Meredith:  I merchandise our catalogs. I curate them. I do the work. Not a computer.

Roger:  I'm not talking about monthly campaign catalogs like we've been doing for more than forty years.

Meredith:  What we've done for forty or more years is what catalog marketing truly is. What you are talking about isn't catalog marketing, it is sorcery.

Roger:  Is this sorcery, Pepper?

Pepper:  It's easy to execute from a marketing standpoint.

Roger:  So you'd support me on this?

Pepper:  Absolutely.

Lois:  What in the name of J. Peterman is going on here?

Meredith:  We're not going to do that. Period.

Lois:  Well based on what they are saying, they don't really need you to do this, do they?

Meredith:  What?

Lois:  They can find a printer and a targeting vendor and they can just do this. They don't need you, and they certainly don't need your permission.

Meredith:  Of course they need me.

Lois:  They don't need you.

Meredith:  Who is going to curate the assortment for the customer?

Roger:  Nobody.

Meredith:  You have to curate the assortment. You have to tell the customer what to buy.

Roger:  Go ahead and do that with your monthly catalogs and Pepper and I will dynamically create twenty-eight unique, personalized pieces for individual customers who are on the plus-side of the Bifurcation equation. You'd do this, right Pepper?

Pepper:  Yes.

Meredith:  Oh knock it off.

Lois:  And there's nothing you can do to stop it Meredith.

Meredith:  Oh there's something I can do to stop it. I just need time to think.

Roger:  Can we meet later to talk about what could be done, Pepper?

Pepper:  Yeah.

Lois:  This is interesting, because it's really a marketing issue. It's not a merchandising issue. It's a power shift in how catalog marketing is executed.

Meredith:  Oh shut up Lois.

Lois:  What?

Meredith:  Nothing.

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