Monday, 28 March 2011

Cross-Atlantic Insight's most wanted

As we enter the second quarter of 2011, now’s the perfect time to review the first three months of the year. Here are the most popular internationally focused articles on our website since January.

1. European online sales overtake the US--European online retail sales now exceed those in the US, according to a new report.

2. H and M to open US online store--apparel retailer H&M announces plans to open up an ecommerce website for American consumers.

3. International study indicates huge potential for mobile retail--a report on mobile shopping shows that UK consumers are increasingly willing to shop by mobile and closing the gap on their US counterparts .

4. Double-digit ecommerce growth predicted for US and Europe--originally published in March 2010, this article on growth predictions experienced a surge in popularity during the quarter.

5. Compare and Contrast: Best Buy--analysing the differences between Best Buy's US website and its UK cousin.

To subscribe to the free fortnightly Cross-Atlantic enewsletter visit

Wednesday, 9 March 2011

Magicbox gets social

We like to think that all the catalogues and websites we’ve reviewed read the articles and act upon the advice they’re given. When an email from magic-tricks retailer Magicbox landed in my inbox this week, I was instantly reminded of the website review we published in September by BT Fresca’s Sarah Hughes.

In her review, Hughes commended Magicbox for using video on its website and making use of user-generated content, but suggested it go a step further by “inviting happy customers to post videos of themselves performing their newly acquired magic tricks”. The email I received this week confirmed that Magicbox was indeed taking this route.

In the email titled “Want to win £100 of free magic?”, Magicbox invited recipients to celebrate the launch of its new customer video reviews feature. Taking up more of Hughes’ advice, Magicbox incentivised customers by offering the best video £100 in free products from the Magicbox website.

Adhering to further customer engagement best-practice, Magicbox then introduced additional social elements to the email—customers could enter the competition by posting their videos on YouTube and sending a link to Magicbox as well as by uploading them directly to the Magicbox site. A shortlist will then be posted on Magicbox’s Facebook page and fans will be invited to vote for their favourite.

In her review, Hughes said it was clear that Magicbox is committed to improve its online presence where possible. Certainly that seems the case with Magicbox integrating more content-rich features and social-media elements into its website and its emails. Wonder what more tricks it has up its sleeve.--MT

Tuesday, 1 March 2011

February Catalogue Log

More than two-thirds of all the catalogues we received and logged during February 2011 featured some sort of special offer on the cover. That makes February the most promotional of the past 12 months. Up until now, the honour belonged to August 2010, when 65.6 percent of the front covers we tracked mentioned a sale, discount, free shipping, or free gift offer.

In February 2011, we noted a rise in each type of promotion tracked. Almost half of the covers featured a sale or discount—49 percent, compared with 44 percent in January. Among those touting a sale were promotional products marketer 4imprint, angling supplies catalogue Fishtec, and shirt maker Charles Tyrwhitt, which used inserts and mailings to promote its latest deals. In fact, we received three Charles Tyrwhitt catalogues in February, one with an offer for Sunday Times readers, one with an offer for Lands’ End customers and a third carrying the rather curious offer code of Elliot.

Free delivery was the second most popular offer, with 22 percent of catalogues promoting free shipping on the cover. That’s up from 16 percent in January, but only marginally ahead of December, and behind September’s crop of catalogues, which saw the highest percentage of catalogues promoting free delivery, 24.3 percent. Some merchants, like Boden, Figleaves, Healthspan, and Hotter Shoes, combined free delivery with a price-related promotion for an even better deal for customers.

Also on the up was the popularity of free gifts. Eighteen percent of the covers we tracked featured a free gift with purchase, including gardening supplies business Wiggly Wigglers, which gave away three bars of Divine chocolate with orders of £30 or more. It’s the highest percentage we’ve seen for several months, up from 16 percent in January and three times more what we logged in December.

Now compare this with February 2010 and you’ll find stark contrasts: Last year we only received 89 catalogues during February, and promotions were down across the gamut of offers we track. What conclusions can be drawn from this? Does increased volume herald a strengthening of the sector? Are mailers confidently investing in upping circulation to lift response? On the other hand, does a more promotional approach indicate that direct sellers are focusing on sales in expense of margin? All thoughts welcome.--MT

Most popular articles January - February

The March issue of Catalogue e-business lands on desks next week, and if you’re a subscriber you can look forward to our special feature on international expansion with advice on selecting the right market, handling international distribution, media options overseas, and pitfalls to avoid.

But before you tear open the latest issue, let’s take a look back at the most popular articles on our website in the first two months of the year.

1. European online sales overtake the US
2. 2010 in review
3. December Catalogue Log
4. Seven email marketing trends for 11
5. Catalogue review: H&M

If you don't subscribe, please visit our website to find out about our subscription options including a lower-cost, online-only subscription.