Tuesday, 21 September 2010

Apology accepted

I previously blogged about “sorry” emails that seem insincere, so bringing it back from the realms of desperate and needy, to actually appearing apologetic was an email from DIY retailer Wickes.

Last week I received a catalogue in the post from Wickes. To be honest, I haven’t yet looked at it. Apparently there was a misprint: Wickes had given the expiry date for its special offer as January 2010, rather than 2011. Whoops!

Today I received an email titled “Apologies from Wickes‏”. Bracing myself for yet another “our website was down over the weekend, here’s 5% off everything”, I was pleasantly surprised. In a a refreshing change for a “sorry” email, the tone of this message is genuinely apologetic and Wickes comes across as rather embarrassed at the admission of its error.

The added bonus, of course, is that by sending me this email Wickes has reminded me of its offer without being pushy about it. Nice save, Wickes.--MT

Monday, 20 September 2010

Seeing red at green report

Earlier this month we published our special feature on “The Green Issue”. We reported that consumers are embracing home shopping, and in particular ecommerce, not just for convenience, but because it is seen as a more environmentally friendly way to buy goods and services.

A 2009 report from the Heriot-Watt University supports this view. It says that whilst “neither home delivery nor conventional shopping has an absolute CO2 advantage, on average, the home delivery operation is likely to generate less CO2 than the typical shopping trip,” in other words, shopping from home is, overall, a greener way to shop.

However, this weekend I read about a new report from the Institution of Engineering and Technology that found we need to buy at least 25 items from a website in one shopping spree before any environmental benefits take effect. According to the report, which was covered by the Telegraph, it may be better for the environment to drive to the shops rather than “rely on a lorry” for home delivery. It sounds to me as though the authors of the report are suggesting that lorries drive the length and breadth of Britain carrying just one parcel at a time and that they deliver to Land’s End and to Inverness in the same trip. We all know this is simply not the case. What’s more, the report ignores that Royal Mail still handles a significant chunk of parcel deliveries and that posties deliver these parcels as part of their daily rounds—often on foot.

Also, the report seems to forget that replenishing stores is also part of the retail supply chain. Product has to be delivered to the store in order for the customer to be able to purchase it there. Therefore, the report implies the journey from depot to home is more harmful to the environment than depot to store and then store to home. In fact, the study from the Heriot-Watt University found that “a person would need to buy 24 non-food items in one standard car-based trip for this method of shopping to be less CO2 intensive than having one non-food item delivered (on the first attempt) to their home by a parcel carrier.”

I find it hard to swallow that environmental savings can only be achieved “if online shopping replaces 3.5 traditional shopping trips, or if 25 orders are delivered at the same time, or, if the distance travelled to where the purchase is made is more than 50km (31 miles)” as the new report suggests. What the study by the Institution of Engineering and Technology set out to prove was that it was equally harmful for the environment to move carbon emissions from one sector to another—that is from offline shopping to online shopping. Yes, there is still more online retailers can do to be greener (see The Green Results Are In), but to say that it may be better to the environment to drive to the shops seems contrary at best and terribly bad advice in all other instances.--MT

Thursday, 9 September 2010

Idea to steal--return to sender

Catalogue returns are inevitable, but as we’ve seen in the Catalogue Log, which tracks UK catalogue marketing trends, cataloguers are becoming smarter with their mailings. Increasingly catalogue companies are trying to cut down on waste, both for environmental as well as commercial reasons. So this is why I love this idea from Howies.

On the back of its 172-page autumn catalogue (which, by the way, was mailed without polywrap) the company asks if recipients returning the catalogue could spare a minute to let it know why the catalogue was not welcome. Recipients can tick one of four boxes:
I have received more than one, this is catalogue number…
There are two of us at this address and I can share with (full name)…
I don’t want to receive any more Howies catalogues…
Some other reason? (tell us below)…

Then at the bottom of the page, the catalogue pleads: “Don’t bin me. Read me or return me”.

A fine example of making your catalogue more environmentally friendly and more user-friendly.--MT

Wednesday, 8 September 2010

Personalisation fail

We received a pen in the post today. Nothing unusual about that, I’m sure we've all received countless offers to personalise our corporate stationery.

What makes this pen extra-special is that it has a photo on it as well as our logo and address. The sender is obviously trying hard to win our business; it was after all “a labour of love and I hope you agree it looks terrific”, says the covering letter.

In its endeavour to send us something that was truly unique, it took an image from our website. That honour goes to Richard Dalziel—one of our unsuspecting independent contributors who, according to this particular stationery supplier, is now the face of our brand.

Moral of the story—if you’re going to try your hand at personalisation, first do your homework about what you are going to personalise.—MT

Friday, 3 September 2010

August Catalogue Log

Last year, the fact that we received just 71 catalogues in August seemed unusual to us. But this year, receiving just 61 catalogues in August came as no surprise. We have been tracking a steady decline in catalogue volume during the last few months—the only anomaly being July, when sale activity boosted the number of catalogues to land on the Catalogue Log desk.

Comparing the catalogues received in August 2009 with those logged in August 2010, some titles that appear in both columns, such as Books Direct, House of Bruar and Scotts of Stow. There also seemed to be an almost equal number of new names this year to compensate for lists we have been dropped from. This further cements the theory that cataloguers are mailing smarter, removing unprofitable names from their files.

Cataloguers are also becoming smarter with their covers. We have been tracking how many catalogues highlight a sale or discount, free shipping, or a free gift on their covers since January 2009 and have noted an increasing trend of using the cover to promote some sort of offer. A staggering 65.6 percent of all the catalogues we received in August featured some sort of offer on the front cover—in July that figure was 64 percent and in June it was 60 percent. Among the minority of catalogues without a special offer were Brora, the Dolls House Emporium, and Lakeland.

The most popular offer in August was a sale or discount, promoted on 41 percent of the catalogue covers we logged. This is appreciably lower than July’s record high of 49.5 percent. Gaining favour with cataloguers in August was free delivery—the number of catalogues touting free shipping almost doubled from 12.1 percent in July to 23 percent in August. Catalogues offering free delivery included Bon Prix, Joules and Boden, which repeated its Sunday Times offer of last year—a 15 percent discount, free delivery, and free returns. We thought it made Boden look needy last year, but it obviously works or Boden wouldn’t have used it again.

The number of catalogues offering a free gift with purchase was 11.5 percent, down from 12.1 percent in July and from 14.1 percent in August 2009. Free gifts were mainly promoted by the b-to-b catalogues in the pack including Viking Direct and Neat Ideas.

Our favourite offer of the month is from gardening catalogue Sarah Raven’s Kitchen & Garden. Among the messages on the cover was this: “Offers What’s yours? See page 49”. I thought it was a fun way to encourage customers to flick through the catalogue. It also had a sense of personalisation—did my catalogue have a different offer to my friend or neighbour’s? I’d like to think there was some sort of segmentation that went into deciding which offer to send to which tranche of the database. Let's put it to the test, I got 15 percent off. What did you get?--MT

It’s our 15th birthday--take 15% off

Subscribe to Catalogue e-business during September* and you’ll receive a 15% discount.

The September 2010 issue of Catalogue e-business is out now and it’s an extra-special one; not only is it jam-packed with the latest tactical advice for multichannel retailers, we also have the bonus ECMOD Preview2010 supplement.

Subscribers can look forward to:

* The Green Issue: the mail order sector doesn’t fare well when it comes to appearing “green” —here's what you can do to combat that, plus tips on sustainable print buying that won’t cost you the earth and a Q&A with Celtic Sheepskin’s general manager Karl Headleand.

* Small-business spotlight: how to use video on your website.

* Contact centres and customer service: is “self service” just an excuse for poor customer service?

* Bonus ECMOD 2010 Preview supplement: increasing sales through Google Analytics, managing your multichannel marketing investments, making sense of order allocation, and news from the exhibition floor.

* Plus: the latest industry news, a review of the Magicbox website, and a Q&A with Patricia Watson of Able2 Wear.

Don’t subscribe? September also sees us celebrate 15 years of Catalogue e-business, so for those of you that aren’t familiar with the publication, or what we have been offering our loyal subscribers all these years, we’ve come up with a very special offer.

Subscribe to Catalogue e-business during September* and you’ll receive a 15% discount. That’s right—you’ll receive a year’s worth of issues, plus all our supplements and full access to our website for just £72.25 in the UK or £80.75 for an international subscription.
To guarantee your copy, subscribe today by calling 01271 866221 or emailing our subscriptions department, remember to quote the code “Happy Birthday”. Offer ends 30th September.

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