Friday, 23 April 2010

Idea to steal: Buyers' Guides

Online experts tell us that we need to include buyers’ guides on our websites to lift conversion rates, establish ourselves as leaders in our niche, and increase website stickiness. As they’re so useful, why limit the guides just to our websites? Here’s an idea to steal from IT products etailer Send buyers’ guides in your enewsletters.

In its email titled Inkjet or Laser...which is right for you, OYYY explains the difference between an inkjet and a laser printer, providing information on advantages and disadvantages of both as well as a selection to choose from. This approach could be applied by other retailers in different sectors. Think LCD or plasma TV, dog harness or regular collar, three-wheeled or four-wheeled baby buggy, the possibilities are almost endless.--MT

Tuesday, 20 April 2010

Guest blog: Don’t let the ash cloud damage your brand

This week’s volcanic ash clouds are creating havoc not only for air-travel passengers but also for cataloguers shipping orders to overseas customers. Many British catalogues have well-deserved reputations for providing excellent customer service. Here are some proactive ways you can maintain goodwill with your customers in the face of the ongoing overseas shipment delays.

First, contact your courier. Ask Royal Mail, Fedex, or whichever delivery company you use, how the delays are affecting your shipments.

• Which of your shipments had already left the UK before the air space was closed last week?

• Which shipments are in the pipeline at UK airports or other UK transit points now, ready to leave the country once the air space is reopened?

• In view of the likely backlog of shipments once air traffic resumes, how long will it take the shipper to deliver these in-the-pipeline shipments to your customers?

• How long will it take your shipper to deliver any new shipments you give it now?

With this information in-hand, you should post on your website the information about the current shipping delays and your policies for dealing with them. You should also email your customers every couple of days to update them on the status of their orders and your policies.

• Customers whose orders have already left the UK will appreciate the peace of mind of knowing that they should expect to receive them as anticipated.

• Customers whose shipments are stuck in transit and will be substantially delayed will be able to make other arrangements if they need your product immediately. You should seriously consider letting these customers cancel/return their orders at no cost--they will contend that it is not their fault the Iceland volcano chose to erupt while their shipment was sitting at a UK airport. You might also suggest they email you when they receive their shipment, so you can get an idea of how long the shipping process is taking once air shipments resume.

• For new orders, you should advise your customers of the likely length of the shipping delay and offer them the opportunity to cancel if that delay proves to be excessive.

You can also take this opportunity to bond more closely with your customer. Your emails can reinforce your regular good customer service. For instance, you might point out that you normally ship orders within 24 hours and that they typically arrive in the US 10 to 14 days later, but that due to the volcanic ash cloud, the current order will be unavoidably delayed. And, once overseas shipping returns to normal, you might give the affected customers a special thank-you discount on their next purchase.

Many British catalogues have established excellent reputations for their customer service. Taking these proactive steps now can help you retain your customers’ goodwill in the face of the volcanic ash cloud’s impact on overseas shipments.

David Ballard is managing director of Ballard Direct, which has helped a number of British catalogues enter the US market. He can be reached at

Wednesday, 14 April 2010

GetTheLabel gets it

In recent months we learnt that fewer than half of retailers have a presence on social networks. From anecdotal evidence it seems that even those that do use social media are failing to integrate them into their email marketing campaigns. That’s why this email from discount apparel etailer GetTheLabel caught my attention.

Here’s what I liked about it:

1. It was personalised—the subject line was “Miri - So you think you know the 80's”? I don’t actually profess to know the 80s—I didn’t grow up in the UK, so everything I know about the 80s was learnt once the decade was over. But still, now I felt I had something to prove. GetTheLabel had succeeded in persuading me to open the email.

2. It linked to a Facebook Quiz—and that’s all it did. There were no products promoted in the email. However, by clicking through to the quiz, respondents allowed GetTheLabel to access their presumably rich Facebook data. The retailer also added tracking code to the click, so it can measure exactly how successful this email was in generating opens and click-throughs. On the quiz I was greeted with questions like "what commercial was Michael Jackson filming when his hair caught fire?", and "which female tennis player won Wimbledon the most times in the 80s?". Before getting my results I was invited to share the app with my friends so they could do it too. This is a neat way for GetTheLabel to spread its message (and discount code, see below) to a wider audience.

3. There was a reward after all—GetTheLabel incentivised the quiz with a 10 percent discount on spends of more than £50. I've blocked countless of pointless Facebook quizzes from my profile, and I am sure others have done the same. But by offering a tangible reward, GetTheLabel has more chance of sustaining attention spans. Also, on the results page GetTheLabel gave me the option of trying more quizzes, returning to my profile, or clicking through to shop at its site. I opted for more quizzes, where I found three more quizzes that GetTheLabel had devised, each with a discount code to reward the Facebook user for his time.

Oh, and if you’re curious I scored 11 out of 15.—MT

Monday, 12 April 2010

March Catalogue Log

As predicted in last month’s Catalogue Log, the number of catalogues promoting discounts and sale prices on their covers fell, whilst the number offering free delivery rose. What we didn’t predict however, was that the number of catalogues offering free shipping would be the highest figure we’ve recorded since we first began compiling the log.

In March, we received a total of 141 catalogues. Of those, 31.9 percent offered a discount, compared with 38.2 percent in February. And although the increase in catalogues offering free delivery was up just 0.7 percent to 22 percent, it’s a record-breaking figure. Until now, the highest percentage of catalogues offering free delivery was 21.7 percent, a figure we noted in our October Catalogue Log at the height of the Christmas mailing season.

One reason for the increased popularity of free p&p last month is, we assume, to soften the blow of full-price, new-season goods. What’s more, of the 31 catalogues offering free delivery, 19, or 61.3 percent of them, offered it unconditionally to further coax shoppers to open their wallets. Overall, it was less surprising the at the most aggressively promotional catalogues were mailed by business-to-business merchants.

Stationery supplies marketer Viking sent us a 12-page A4 catalogue called Switch & Save. It promised that if we chose to switch from our current stationery supplier to Viking, we’d be making a saving by beating competitors’ prices. Considering we already have an account with Viking (amongst others), I am surprised this landed in our office. Another business catalogue making a similarly bold claim is promotional products cataloguer 4imprint, which says it is “100% behind our 100% satisfaction guarantee”. As part of that guarantee it is offering double the difference if customers find a lower price elsewhere. Further, if the order is not delivered on time, the entire order is free.

Just 14.9 percent of the catalogues we received in March promoted a free gift with purchase. This is down from 16.9 percent in February and 15.7 percent in March last year. RNLI was one of the consumer catalogues offering a gift. It was good to see the RNLI catalogue back after its hiatus. Last year RNLI didn’t print a spring edition following problems at its former fulfilment house, Capita Fulfilment Services. This year, see the charity’s trading arm returned with a new website and new fulfilment house, Prism DM.
Finally, a note on a back cover we liked. The spring summer edition of the Outdoor & Country catalogue features a very colourful and eye-catching front cover, but as we all know, a catalogue is just as likely to be read from back to front. The catalogue doesn’t shout about an offer or spotlight a bestselling product, instead it carries a rather gentle reminder: “Did you see the essential travel luggage pages…and the funky festival wellies?” The question teases each time you look at the back cover. And even if you had seen the wellies first time round, now you’re thinking, “they’re worth another look, surely…”--MT

Thursday, 8 April 2010

Egg on its face

I loved this cover of the Wiggly Wigglers catalogue at first. It had a touch of the metaphysical about it—a chicken looking at a chicken-shaped basket full of eggs, itself a basket full of eggs-to-be.

On closer look, however, the chicken isn’t all there. If you zoom in on the chicken’s feet, one of them is transparent. So much for contemplating your place in the world.--MT

In the April issue...

The April 2010 issue of Catalogue e-business hits desks this week. Here’s a taste of what you can expect:

* Special focus on email marketing, with advice on using trigger marketing, making the best use of transactional emails, and measuring campaign success.
* Bonus supplement on software and systems including Ernie Schell's annual order management systems roundup as well as articles on content management and ecommerce systems.
* Plus the latest news, a website review, Q&A with…, and much more.

The only way to guarantee you receive a copy is to subscribe. To have the print edition of Catalogue e-business magazine delivered to you, or for more information, contact Jill Sweet on 01271 866221 or