Thursday, 28 October 2010

A phantom error

It’s not often I admit defeat in trying to work out what a marketer is trying to tell me. I'd like to think I give everyone a fair chance to make his point. But in the case of Procook’s latest email, I hold my hands up in resignation.

The Halloween-themed email is titled “Oops, we got it wrong!” and features the same words in a speech bubble coming from one of the pumpkins in the top image. Obviously, something in a previous email went awry, but this email makes no mention of it. What would otherwise have been a very good example of a Halloween email (Witches’ Finger cookies anyone?), has me now wondering “huh?”--MT

Friday, 15 October 2010

A wild-goose chase with Outdoor and Country

Outdoor and CountryWhilst flicking through the Outdoor & Country catalogue I fell in love with an adorable jumper that would be perfect for my niece. I immediately made a mental note to buy it for her birthday next month. The “Free Delivery” dot whack on the right-hand side of the page did its job in further persuading me that this was a good buy. However, a closer look at the free delivery offer revealed that “conditions apply”.

Okay, where can I find out what the conditions are? Nothing on the front or back covers pointed to a free p&p offer, the welcome letter on page 2 also made no mention of such a deal. Even the terms and conditions form at the back was no help. In very fine print on the order form I noted that full terms and conditions regarding delivery are available online. So I headed online. Happily, each spread carries the web address at the bottom on the page so at least I didn’t have to look too hard for that.

Nothing about free delivery on the home page. The link to “Delivery” takes me to a page about Christmas ordering and the returns process, but nothing about free shipping. The help page was a bit more help, but only told me of standard shipping rates, not about any offers.

I then decided to search for the product and see whether by adding it to my basket, the checkout process will work out charges for me. No such luck, the jumper is out of stock in all sizes.

After all that effort I still don’t know what the deal is, and even more disappointed to learn that it’s out of stock anyway. Cataloguers take note—don’t make the consumer work so hard. If free delivery has conditions, specify what they are within the catalogue. Not everyone will be sat by a computer when browsing your catalogue, and even if they are, they shouldn’t be expected to hunt for something made so prominent on a product page.—MT

Thursday, 14 October 2010

Prospecting by retargeting

“CRM is dead and PRE is the future”, declared Screwfix’s head of ecommerce John Ashton in a session called Personalisation, Prospecting, and Profiting in 2010 at this year’s ECMOD conference. “PRE”, he explained, stands for Personalised Recommendation Engine and it is currently responsible for 15 percent of total business at Screwfix.

Whereas customer relationship management (CRM) is defined as managing the interactions your customer has with your brand to drive acquisition and retention strategies, according to Ashton, the personalised recommendation engine is all about using your customer’s actual behaviour with your company to instantly add value to your business.

In a nutshell, a PRE is a program that uses the data your business has on an individual to show that person products that he may be interested in based on his behaviour on your website. This means using the pages and products he viewed, what’s been added to the cart, past purchases, or what other customers like him have bought to form an idea of the products that may also be of interest to him. At Screwfix, for instance, CRM meant targeted offers, say, for all plumbers on the database. Using a PRE Screwfix is now able to display offers at an individual level, based on what is in the shopper’s basket, or what he’s looked at before.

Moreover, in 12 weeks’ time, said Ashton, Screwfix will have achieved a single customer view across all of its channels—trade counters, catalogue and website. This will enable the trade counters to see exactly what someone has bought in the past whether online or in-store, and instead of suggesting generic offers like “would you like a measuring tape with your order”, staff can suggest more relevant products, for example, copper piping as an additional purchase to someone who has a boiler in his shopping basket. This tactic will also be applied to Screwfix’s email marketing to personalise email offers and make its 1.2 million weekly emails more “interesting”, added Ashton.

Wrapping up his presentation, Ashton told delegates how Screwfix is using retargeting. He explained that of’s 700,000 weekly web visitors, 650,000 leave without buying anything. However, in the past six months, the company has been “retargeting” those that have left empty-handed. Ashton described how Screwfix is using a tool called Criteo, which tracks users’ online behaviour using cookies to display ads to them once they have left the site. The results are impressive says Ashton, who added that before using these targeted ads, which can display to users the last few products they viewed on the screwfix website, he had struggled to see any sort of return using online display advertising. From Ashton’s presentation it appears that it’s no longer about reaching out to prospective customers, who may never have heard of you; it’s about maximising the traffic you are already getting by personalising the experience.--MT

Related articles: Highly recommended

Tuesday, 12 October 2010

September Catalogue Log

Nearly one-fifth of the 1,081 catalogues tallied in the first nine months of 2009 were received in September. For the same period of 2010, we received just 953 catalogues, but September’s share remained roughly the same—we logged 185 catalogues last month, representing 19.4 percent of the total catalogues received to date.

There are further similarities between the data gathered in September 2009 and last month. Not least that in both years we noted a significant increase in volume compared with the previous month—no surprise there as many cataloguers are ramping up distribution in the run-up to Christmas. Each September saw catalogue volume almost triple compared with August. Based on the last two years, I’d hazard a guess that this pattern is likely to be repeated next year.

While the number of catalogues we received had rocketed, the percentage promoting sales and discounts dropped appreciably, from 41.0 percent in August to 34.1 percent in September—almost an identical percentage to last year, when the number of catalogues promoting a sale or discount was 34.4 percent. Among the 63 catalogues promoting a sale or discount on the front cover or carrier sheet, were nightwear catalogue Charlotte & Co, which offered 20 percent off the customer’s first order, and apparel catalogue Fife Country, which gave customers a time-limited offer: those who order by 16th October receive 15 percent off any order of more than £50.

The percentage of catalogues offering free delivery remained almost unchanged from last year, rising marginally to 24.3 percent; however it represents the highest rate so far this year. Almost a quarter of all catalogues tallied in September offered conditional or unconditional free p&p, including business-to-business catalogue BT Business Direct, which promoted free delivery on online orders of more than £149 plus free delivery on all inks and toners until 8th October, and maternity wear cataloguer Isabella Oliver, which offered free standard delivery for all orders of £99 or more, and free express delivery for orders of £139 or more.

The number of catalogues not using their front covers to tout special offers was also up on August. In September we recorded 80 catalogues without an offer, representing 43.2 percent, or almost a 10 percent rise on the previous month.

Looking back to October 2009, 41.3 percent of catalogues highlighted a sale or discount on the cover, and 21.7 percent offered free shipping. Going forward, I’m going to make another prediction based on that data: as we get closer to Christmas, free delivery will become an even more popular offer as cataloguers strive to make service, rather than price, the key differentiator during the festive season.--MT

Friday, 1 October 2010

Added value

When you sell goods that are, shall we say, at the pricier end of the market, you may find you need to explain why your products are more expensive. Why would a consumer looking for a nightdress buy your nightdress priced at £79 over one that looks similar but costs £25 from Marks & Spencer?
Apparel cataloguer David Nieper has an answer. In its most recent catalogue, the company sets the scene with an enclosed 8-page booklet titled “Buy direct from the designer. An introduction to a unique fashion house”. Further callouts on the cover highlight “family tradition, hand made in England” and “the finest fabrics”. Inside, these elements are explored—complete with customer testimonials to support the claims. The result, the consumer is left with no doubt as to what makes that £79 nightdress so special.--MT