Friday, 28 May 2010

Catch of the day

William Powell’s customers may have been a little surprised in May to find a catalogue landing on their doormat. For many years, the retailer of sporting guns and shooting accessories had only printed an autumn/winter edition to take advantage of trade during Christmas. This year, however, the company decided to mail a spring edition to better showcase its fishing-tackle section.

Nothing new in that you might think, but William Powell gets top marks for execution; it has clearly been following some best-practice guidelines in its opening spread:

* The managing director’s letter introducing the new catalogue is warm, friendly, and informative.

* Photos of the William Powell store, plus directions on how to get there.

* Clear how-to-order details and a service guarantee.

* A logical and well laid out table of contents with a photo for each section on page 3.

* An area for William Powell’s top picks for the season including page numbers

* A call to action to shop online.

* Promoting the availability of gift vouchers.

* As it is primarily mailed to raise awareness of the fishing tackle range, page 3 reinforces the message with a dot whack and photo.

Taking everything it has got right into account, one thing continues to niggle—just who, exactly, is Archie?--MT

Wednesday, 26 May 2010

The top five of far

Since our website was relaunched back in November 2009, we've been busy adding lots of new content to the site. It you're just discovering us--though Twitter or LinkedIn, here's a rundown of our top five most popular articles of 2010 so far.

Twelve ways to reduce cart abandonment

Ten warning signs of a failing business

Five ways to improve your catalogue

International M&A: 2009 in review

The key components of an effective ecommerce site: 2010 version

Monday, 10 May 2010

April Catalogue Log

In terms of sales, discounts, and free delivery offers, April 2010 panned out much the same as April 2009. Of the 96 catalogues we received and logged last month, 29.2 percent (28 catalogues) promoted a sale or discount on the front cover compared with 30 percent in April last year. Free delivery was just marginally less popular in 2010, with 18.8 percent of covers promoting it, compared with one in five of all catalogues logged in April 2009.

Curiously, free gifts were much more popular in April 2010, and were promoted by 16.7 percent of all catalogues, compared with 12.5 percent the previous year. And it wasn’t just the usual—business-to-business—suspects touting a freebie: Organic cosmetics brand LoveLula offered free samples with every purchase; environmentally friendly goods purveyor Ethical Superstore sent customers who spent £40 or more a free bar of soap and apparel and homewares cataloguers Clifford James offered a free reading lamp to anyone placing an order of £40 or more.

One growing catalogue trend we’ve noticed in recent months is the shift to a more editorial style. We’ve written about the rise of the customer magazine—now known also as a magalogue—back in September (Getting engaged: The rise of the customer magazine), and noted that while editorial pages may not be selling product, they are still promoting the brand. We also featured two launches not so long ago: Loungewear cataloguer Hush and tech specialist Jigsaw both recently unveiled customer magazines with the aim of further engaging customers with their brand. During the Catalogue Log tracking in April, we came across at least three more catalogues that seemed to be heading in the same direction.

The first was MacSolutions from Cancom. On first impressions this could easily pass for a magazine—it is laid out with a title, issue number, and copy pointing to special features within. Once inside, the magazine theme continues—for example, on page 59, the Final Cut Studio software is given a full page and each of its functions broken down and explained in great detail. However, it’s also worth noting that nearly every one of MacSolutions’ 68 pages is a selling page. So it’s more buyer’s guide than magazine.
On the consumer side, April’s Catalogue Log recorded a mailing from catalogue group JD Williams. Together with its main catalogue we received JD Williams’ Summer 2010 Style Book. The Style Book was back for its second season, having debuted in autumn/winter 09. Its aim is to help JD Williams customers make fashion choices based on their body shape and the latest trends. For this edition it picked four “real people”, each with a different body type, to model clothes in the style that best suited them. There is also a fashion Q&A (with questions like “I have chunky upper arms, so hate the summer season when strappy tops come into fashion. I’ve tried short sleeves but always find these too tight. Can you solve this?”) and a centre-spread dedicated to building a capsule wardrobe on a budget. All the items featured are available to buy in the main summer catalogue.

Finally, the Little Book of Pests from Harrod Horticultural caught our attention. The name conjures up images of kids eating worms, but it’s actually a handy gardener’s companion helping Harrod’s customers to identify which pests have damaged their plants. The book is a veritable A-Z of nasty critters from ants to whitefly. What we like best is that Harrod Horticultural is using its knowledge of plants and their predators not only to help customers, but to advise them of the best remedies available, naturally, via the Harrod Horticultural catalogue. Although sadly I didn’t inherit my grandfather’s green thumbs, I can see this book having real staying power with customers; most likely lifting sales of pest-control products at the same time.

Through editorially led features, these cataloguers are establishing themselves as go-to sources for information, thereby increasing customer engagement. Home shopping businesses know it costs less to keep an existing customer than recruit a new one, and that lifetime value matters more than a quick win. So whereas a sale or discount may capture that bargain hunter, what April's Catalogue Log shows is that building customer loyalty is higher on the agenda.--MT

Wednesday, 5 May 2010

The email campaign trail

In fewer than 24 hours, the polls will open and us Brits will be able to vote in the general election to shape the country’s future. If you haven’t yet made up your mind who to vote for, the following emails from cataloguers and online retailers won’t help you much, but they are an irreverent look at how the election was used as a marketing opportunity.

Attention, Boden needs your vote- choose your offer wisely‏
Premise: Just two parties in Boden’s email—the stripes party and the spots party. Each has a different offer. Vote for spots and receive £15 off a £100 spend. Voting for stripes, which "campaigns" for a VAT-free Britain, gives the recipient 17.5 percent off.
Our vote: This definitely gets our cross in the box. A great offer and superb creative—when it comes to memorable emails, Boden never fails to deliver.

Feather & Black
Vote for Style! Up to 50% off This Bank Holiday Week...
Premise: Bed and bedding retailer Feather & Black is tired of the hype around the general election, so it’s running its own election campaign. Feather & Black is calling on customers to go to its stores and vote for their favourite product to be in with a chance of winning a Salisbury Panelled Bed worth £599. As well as the star prize, Feather & Black is also running a sale with up to 40 percent off, plus a further 10 percent off during the bank holiday weekend.
Our vote: Although dominating the subject line, the words election and voting seem secondary to the main thrust of its email, which focuses on promoting the bank holiday sale. Perfect for those bored of hearing about manifestos and promises.
Title: If we ruled the world - the Firebox Manifesto‏
Premise: Firebox’s party political broadcast calls for compulsory radio-controlled helicopter flying lessons on the curriculum and a knighthood for David Hasselhoff.
Our vote: Plenty of product, plenty of tongue-in-cheek humour, but I don’t think I’d really want to live in Firebox’s Utopia. And the policies all seem a bit obvious—was this email more hastily put together than Firebox’s other missives?

Pets at Home
Title: Brown and Cameron-themed dog toys plus huge deals on cat and dog food‏
Premise: Pets at Home runs with a promotion for dog toys in the shape of David Cameron and Gordon Brown. The idea is that presented with both toys your pet pooch will pick his desired prime minister.
Our vote: In interests of fairness we abstain from voting as there’s no Nick Clegg doll.

Title: Who gets your vote?‏
Premise: A serious note from Waterstone’s. No gimmicks, just political books to provide the recipients of this email all the background information they should need on each of the parties and candidates.
Our vote: The early bird catches the worm. Waterstone’s gets top marks for sending the email on the first day of campaigning. That’s enough time to read more than one book—smart, eh?--MT

Tuesday, 4 May 2010

Catalogue e-business May 2010 issue

The May issue of Catalogue e-business is out now. If you’re a subscriber, here's what you can expect:
* Special focus on affiliate marketing, demystifying jargon and providing advice on making the most of comparison-shopping engines
* A feature on third-party fulfilment should you outsource your call centre and fulfilment operations? If so, what’s the best way to go about it?
* Small-business spotlight—coping with the loss of a key employee
* Plus the latest news, a website review, Q&A with…, and much more.

If you don’t subscribe, you can click here to view a taster edition of the latest issue. But remember, the only way to read the magazine from cover to cover is to subscribe. A one-year subscription also gives you full access to the website and an archive of past issues.

To have the print edition of Catalogue e-business magazine delivered to you, or for more information, contact Jill Sweet on 01271 866221 or

Timing the trigger

When is a trigger email not a trigger? When you can’t remember why it was sent. Take this example from John Lewis: Last week I was shopping for some sunglasses. I fancied a pair spotted on one site and did a Google product search to compare prices and get more details. John Lewis had the pair in stock as well as information on UV protection, zoomable images, and in case they weren’t the right pair for me, some suggestions on what else I might like in different price points.

For one reason or another, I decided not to buy the sunglasses. I left and thought no more about it. That happened at the weekend. On Wednesday, I received an email from John Lewis titled: “Thank you for your interest. Free standard delivery on all orders over £30”. This left me puzzled. What interest? Is John Lewis referring to the sunglasses I looked at three days prior, or have I inadvertently visited the site and triggered some other kind of action? And why did it wait until Wednesday to send me this email?

In my opinion, a trigger emails should be almost instant—Amy Africa recommends waiting no more than two hours after the consumer has carried out the action (abandoned basket, or abandoned search, for instance). Three days later and it’s definitely too late. So whilst I appreciate that John Lewis wants my custom enough to bother sending me such an email, its trigger marketing ends up shooting itself in the foot.--MT