Thursday, 28 April 2011

Royal wedding emails we love

The old adage is true, be careful what you wish for. I had initially lamented the lack of royal wedding merchandise.But that was back in November. Since then we've been subject to a deluge of royal wedding-related memorabilia, including this £10 plastic tray spotted in a souvenir shop outside the London Eye.

Wills & Kate tray

There have also been plenty of royal wedding emails from marketers keen to boost sales ahead of the big day. Here are three that caught my attention. Feel free to send me your favourite Wills & Kate emails--and why you love them. We'll do another roundup in an upcoming blog post, email

Why we love it: Think Channel 4’s alternative to the Queen’s Speech at Christmas and you’ll get the gist of the Firebox email. Titled “Wills & Kate: 100% Unofficial Merchandise with FREE UK Delivery!”, the Firebox email has everything for those who like their royal weddings with a pinch of salt. Presented against a backdrop of cheerful bunting, there are “Thanks for the day off” commemorative plates and Royal Wedding Top Trumps that rate guests on their age, style icon-ness and VIP status. If you want something less cheeky, there are Union Jack sky lanterns and a royal wedding heart mug.

Why we love it: Did you know that if Prince William were to get married before his 25th birthday he would have needed the Queen’s consent? No, neither did we, but thanks to Cosyfeet’s themed email we do now. Cosyfeet, a seller of extra roomy footwear, sent an email to its customer base with details on occasionwear to celebrate the royal wedding. The email, with the subject line “Cosyfeet magazine - Issue 8 - 10% off selected footwear” included a number of other factoids about the royals—as well as that all-important special offer. These features combine to give Cosyfeet real inbox staying power.
Why we love it: Breaking away from email marketing convention, this missive from gifts etailer has no immediate call to action in the subject line. However, with the title “Weddings, weekends and winning” the recipient has a clear idea of what’s on offer. The wedding is clearly the royal wedding, with themed products including badges, biscuits, and bunting. The weekend is covered by travel bags and passport holders. And the win involves taking part in an Easter egg hunt. As the win element was consigned to a small graphic at the top right of the email, we would have liked to see more made of it. But otherwise this was a delightful email that made us long for a cream tea and a street party.--MT

Tuesday, 26 April 2011

Missing a trick--part 3

Regular readers will know I have a bit of a beef with the levels of personalisation in pet supplies emails. I’ve blogged about it at least twice (here and here), and commented on it countless times. So imagine my delight at finally receiving an email from a UK-based pet-supplies merchant that said it was creating an email preference centre.

I envisaged a world where I entered the type of pet I own (dog), his age, breed or size. I thought it may even ask me what I usually fed him, whether he had any medical conditions, what flea treatment I used and when the next one was due, all in the name of creating a 360-degree view of me as a customer. I pictured the retailer sending me superpersonalised emails with offers I couldn’t refuse. Think what you can do to your repeat-order levels if you knew the last time I bought a dog-worming tablet and could schedule to send me a reminder three months later. Think also of the goodwill you’d generate by showing me more products suited to a Labrador than a Chihuahua--I don’t quite think my dog would carry off the tiara look.

Then came the disappointment. Pets at Home only wanted to know if I had a dog, cat, horse, bird, reptile, fish, small pet, or “other”. There wasn’t another page to fill in. That was it. I can’t help but feel that Pets at Home really missed an opportunity to get to know its customers.--MT

Tuesday, 12 April 2011

Fat Face and the multichannel mailer

Of the mailings that landed on my desk in the last few weeks, the Summer 2011 Fat Face direct mail piece immediately caught my attention. The 6-page foldout mailer is a mini catalogue featuring a small selection of men’s, women’s and childrenswear. And while I found the design to be a little “busy” and crowded at times, I like the way Fat Face cleverly uses the mailing as a tool to drive both online and in-store sales.

There are two offers on the cover: Free delivery and a prize draw. To enter the draw customers need to hand in a tear-off section of the mailer to a shop assistant. Presumably, this then allows the shop to capture the customer’s email address and build a fuller picture of that buyer’s activity online and in-store. Alternatively, customers are automatically entered into the draw by shopping with Fat Face’s website. Rather telling, Fat Face doesn’t give recipients the option of posting back the form, or filling it in online without buying something. This demonstrates the two aims of the mailer: to generate an online sale, or acquire the customer’s email address in-store.

The second offer of free delivery adds a further incentive to buy. To qualify for free delivery, customers need to spend £85 or more and enter a media code found on the front page of the mailer at the online checkout. Or they can quote the code to a contact centre agent. This tactic means Fat Face can match back the order to that precise catalogue mailing, important in deciding where to allocate marketing spend.

What all this goes to prove is that the print medium plays a key part in the multichannel marketing arsenal—with a role in driving store sales as well as online transactions. And while none of this should come as a surprise to seasoned direct marketers, Fat Face’s mini catalogue shows just how uncomplicated it can be.--MT

Monday, 11 April 2011

Boden wins Catalogue e-business Readers' Award

Boden, the multichannel retailer of apparel and accessories, emerged victorious as the winner of the inaugural Catalogue e-business Readers’ Award. Announced at the annual ECMOD Direct Commerce Awards evening, which was held on 6th April at the Lancaster London hotel, Boden’s assistant marketing manager Matt Finn was at the event to accept the award on behalf of the business.

Commenting on the win, Finn said that part of the business’s success and a reason it may be admired among its peers is that the “brand permeates through the company” and that founder Johnnie Boden leads the business from the front. In other words, while Johnnie Boden is the “keeper of the brand”, the entire organisation lives and breathes it.

This year Catalogue e-business magazine teamed up with the ECMOD Direct Commerce Awards to introduce a new category. Open to all readers of Catalogue e-business, the Readers’ Award asked individuals to nominate the direct commerce business they hold in the greatest esteem.

After receiving 462 votes, it was too close to call so the list was whittled down to seven finalists including Asos, Boden, Charles Tyrwhitt, Kiddicare, Lakeland, Net-a-Porter, and The White Company. It fell to delegates at the CatEx Round Table Day—held on the same day as the ECMOD Direct Commerce Awards on 6th April—to cast their votes so that the outright winner can be named.

Boden was presented with the trophy during as part of the ECMOD Direct Commerce Awards evening. For more on Boden, and the other finalists, look out for our May issue. Click here to find out about subscribing.

March Catalogue Log

At face value, March 2011 and March 2010 look almost identical in terms of catalogue volume. We received 140 catalogues last month, compared with 141 in March last year. There were familiar names too—we logged catalogues from Flowercard, Joe Browns, Kettlewell, and Tesco Direct in March 10 and March 11. But there were also names missing this year. For instance, we didn’t get a mailing from Bella di Notte, Cox & Cox, or Extremepie this March. Nevertheless, catalogues from Feather & Black, Garden Trading, and Shop Direct’s new isme title, brought March’s catalogue volume in line with last year. Evidently, marketers are being more careful with mailings and removing unprofitable names from their mailing files.

Catalogue Log Offers Chart

Digging a little deeper into our data, however, shows several differences. Although March 2011 was only marginally more promotional than last year—58.6 percent of catalogues featured some sort of offer on the cover, compared with 57.4 percent last year—we tracked a 29 percent increase in the number of catalogues promoting a sale or discount. Of the 140 catalogues we received in March, 41.4 percent, 58 catalogues, had a price-related offer on the cover. Among those offering knock-down prices were children’s furniture cataloguer Great Little Trading Co, apparel retailers Joules and Toast, and the new JD Williams brand Williams & Brown.

In March last year we noted a record number of catalogues offering free shipping—22 percent. That record has since been broken twice, and was almost matched this March, with one in five catalogues a conditional or unconditional p&p offer. Commonly this year, free shipping was combined with free returns as a further incentive to purchase. This was adopted by womenswear catalogues Penny Plain, Hush, and Brora, among others.

Free gifts was less popular than it was last March, and indeed the least popular it’s been in 2011 so far. The offer appeared on 15 catalogue covers this month, mostly used by business-to-business merchants and gardening catalogues.--MT

Comparing the offers: March 11 and March 10

Tuesday, 5 April 2011

Seven companies reach Catalogue e-business Readers’ Award shortlist

Seven highly respected direct commerce businesses have reached the shortlist of the inaugural Catalogue e-business Readers’ Award. Having received some 462 votes, it was too close to call between Asos, Boden, Charles Tyrwhitt, Kiddicare, Lakeland, Net-a-Porter, and The White Company. As a result, it will fall to delegates at the CatEx Round Table Day—held on the same day as the ECMOD Direct Commerce Awards on 6th April—to cast their votes so that the outright winner can be named. The outright winner will then be invited to accept the trophy as part of the ECMOD Direct Commerce Awards evening.

In related news, congratulations to Carol Cade of the Book People who, by making her nomination for the readers' award, won our prize draw of two tickets to the Awards evening. Enjoy the night!

For information on booking a seat at the ECMOD Awards visit

For information on attending the CatEx Round Table Day visit

Monday, 4 April 2011

Friends in high places

It’s always satisfying to receive a compliment or testimonial from a happy customer out of the blue. So imagine the delight at the offices of Wall London, an upmarket apparel retailer/cataloguer, when its ethical way of doing business was mentioned during a debate at the House of Lords. On 3rd March, Baroness Young of Hornsey raised the debate on the government’s plans to support and promote the ethical and sustainable clothing industry. It was during this discussion that Baroness Rendell of Babergh gave Wall her seal of approval commending its ethical heritage alongside that of Stella McCartney, saying that Wall “set an example that could be a standard for [fashion] companies”