October 04, 2023

Panel Discussion

A funny one for you.

Remember when catalogs had source codes / key codes on the back of the catalog? You'd call the contact center and Besty would say "please read the key code off of the back of the catalog" and the customer would dutifully say something like "FN2AJPFB" which actually means "Fall November Drop 2 0-3 Month 3x+ $100 AOV".

I was on a panel discussion at NEMOA in 2007 on the "future of cataloging" or something like that. A question came up ... "how will we measure catalog performance in the future?"

I remember sharing with the audience that at Nordstrom we eliminated key codes years ago and simply measured incremental lift via A/B tests (mail vs. no mail). I mentioned that there would be no key codes in the future - no need for them, and they were not calibrated to measure the complicated performance of a customer visiting a website several times a week after receiving a catalog.

The audience laughed ... in the "oh that will never happen, idiot" way that audiences tend to respond.

The late Alan Rimm-Kaufman agreed with me. The woman from L.L. Bean was mysteriously quiet, suggesting she was headed down the same path and didn't want anybody in the audience to follow her. Seriously - if she agreed with me the audience would have stopped laughing instantly and would have done whatever she told them to do because she was from L.L. Bean and L.L. Bean could do no wrong in New England in 2007. A fourth member of the panel spoke glowingly of the importance of key codes - the audience nodded with loving approval ... the "She gets us, catalogs will be here forever" look of approval.

It's late in 2023 ... we all know what happened.

Vet your panelists ... some speak about the future ("it's an AI world and we are just living in it") and know nothing about what they are saying. Others are already practicing the future and the audience isn't smart enough to realize it. Then you have the vendors selling incessantly to the uniformed ("We think all brands will leverage Pilgrim Models in the future" ... and guess what ... they sell "Pilgrim Models" ... whatever those are).

Panel Discussions ... they're an interesting pot pourri of thought leadership and actual knowledge.

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