Monday, 23 May 2011

Compare and contrast: Radley

British accessories brand Radley claims on its website that its “love for hand-crafted, distinctive designs is reflected in all of our products, as is our slightly eccentric Britishness!” We’ve often written about the appeal of British brands to American consumers. Julian Granville of apparel retailer Boden once said that in the US, Boden makes a point of “turning up the Britishness on the dial” to help distinguish the brand from local apparel catalogues. So how does Radley translate its appeal on its website? Let’s take a closer look…

Radley’s UK website is at, while its USA website is This tactic is also applied by apparel cataloguer Wrap, which in the UK is found at, while US customers shop through I assume this is because was already taken by a Michigan-based supplier of supply-chain software. Nonetheless, for me works as a domain name as it actually strengthens the brand’s British appeal. American customers shopping for Radley may be more enamoured with a brand that’s more clearly linked with London.

The page name is also different. In the UK, Radley is known as “Radley London :: Luxury Handbags, Purses, Luggage, Gifts and Accessories – Official Store”. The US page data reads: “Radley London Official US Store :: Luxury Handbags, Wallets, Luggage, Gifts and Accessories – Official Store”. The reiteration of the word official may suggest that Radley suffers from copycat sites. In my opinion the second mention of Official Store adds nothing and should be removed. Doing so reduces the meta title to fewer than 100 characters, which is much more in line with best-practice. I also noticed that Radley doesn’t include the word purses on its US page title—is this because of the confusion of the meaning of the word purse, which in the UK means ladies wallet, but in the US means handbag?

Radley's UK website
On the home front
The Radley UK and US home pages look very similar, but you’ll notice that the UK site (above) has more product categories. Most notably, the US website (below) does not stock Radley’s shoe range. In addition, the US site, in contrast to the UK, does not sell gift cards. You’d think that electronic gift cards would be easy to implement, so it’s strange that this option isn’t available in the States. It would seem an ideal gift for a UK resident to purchase for an Anglophile friend living in the USA—for start because there wouldn’t be any shipping costs involved.

Radley's US website
I like, however, that the company has thought about prices. On the UK Radley website the Gift Shop tab promotes gifts starting at less than £25. On the US website, prices start at $50. Once again, all instances of the word purse have been changed to wallet.

Visitors to the UK website will also notice that the home page image rotates between a nautical-themed scene that’s also on the home page of the American site, and a call to shop Radley’s canvas bag range. In contrast, the US site stays static for no apparent reason. The offers on home pages are different too. The UK site promotes a mid-season sale, while the US site has a “buy 2 get 1 free” offer prominently displayed in the top right corner. Radley also chooses to promote different ranges to its international customers. The Grosvenor design gets two mentions on the US home page, suggesting this might be one of its best-selling items overseas. This is further reinforced by the accompanying copy that states “Grosvenor is back…” as though popular US demand had called for its reintroduction.

Curiously, the Discover Radley tab on the home page has been slimmed down for US consumers. I would have thought American customers would need more brand-building copy than their UK counterparts. Gone are the Collection and Your Stories sections, leaving the US customers access to News, As Seen In, About Us, and Our Handbags. Not entirely sure why Radley dropped these two categories. It would make sense to also allow American customers to share their Radley experiences on the website and make Radley a truly global brand. The UK prize is a gift card, so that may restrict US customers, but I am sure Radley could credit the winning customer with $200 towards their next purchase.

Neither site displays a phone number on the home page, but a click through to the Contact Us page displays different information depending on the region the customer is from.  US customers can call local number, as well as contact the UK head office.

Grosvenor Medium Across Body UK
Perusing product
From the home page I picked the Purses category on the UK site and the Wallets category on the US website to compare more closely. Each click took me to an identically laid-out product category page. From there I chose the Plain Sailing large wallet. At time of writing, the UK site had the purse on sale, down from £75 to £53. The US site still had it at $120, roughly equal to £75. The copy for each wallet was the same, and each site included links to bookmark, print, and share the product. Strangely, the UK version of the purse has 10 likes on Facebook. The US version has none. Similarly absent on the US site are product reviews. For the Grosvenor Medium Across Body Bag, for example, the UK site has eight reviews (above), where the US equivalent has none (below). In fact, having browsed the site extensively, I struggled to find five product reviews on the US website. Against each product is a clear call to action to submit a review, so either American customers aren’t interested in reviewing Radley’s products, or Radley isn’t interested in publishing their comments.  Where Radley does get top marks is in sizing. In the US, each bag and wallet has its dimensions described in inches.

Grosvenor Medium Flapover Across Body US

Overall, the US site is just as cleanly designed at its UK counterpart and features all of the same functionality. A little more uniformity is needed when it comes to user-generated content though. I would also like to see a bigger story made of Radley’s Britishness on the US website. As it’s a fairly new brand—just 13 years old—it doesn’t have the heritage of, say, a retailer like Smythson, so it may need a little more differentiation to make it stand out--MT

Monday, 16 May 2011

Slingsby magalogue works it

By now we’re all familiar with the magalogue format. Part magazine, part catalogue, the magalogue’s aim is to sell through engagement. As Sean King, chief executive of customer publishing agency Seven Squared once told me, “owning your own media—magazines, websites, blogs, Twitter feeds—is an effective way of reaching and engaging with customers, existing and potential,” something a catalogue alone cannot do.

By that token, there is no reason why a magalogue should be the preserve of consumer brands. DIY giant Kingfisher, for example, launched a customer magazine in January called Trade Talk. The publication, created by John Brown, is distributed to customers via Screwfix's trade counters and at TradePoint counters within B&Q’s stores.

Most recently I received a copy of Slingsby’s Work-it magalogue. Landing on my desk in April, Work-it combines the workplace equipment provider’s seasonal items, including spring cleaning items and outdoor equipment, with features and news articles.
Slingsby says it will produce the 64-page publication twice a year and feature supplier and customer interviews, buying guides, tips, ideas, news articles and, of course, product. The first issue contains six interviews, special offers, competitions, product reviews, and health and safety advice. According to Lee Wright, Slingsby’s marketing director, the first issue was circulated to a wide range of customers across a variety of industries. So far, he says, “response has been fantastic and we are delighted with the feedback we have received.”

Creating editorial content is much more than including a competition or publishing a recipe, something Slingsby seems to appreciate. It appears to have worked hard to create a publication that warrants a second and third flick-through. There are tips on site maintenance, a case study on Slingsby customer and engineering firm WFEL and an interview with the chief executive of the British Institute of Facilities Management. My favourite feature was the “To-do board”. Designed to look like a cork noticeboard, the spread on pages 24 to 25 has tips on the most important jobs of the season—pest control, road maintenance, outdoor furniture, and drains maintenance. A handy reminder for readers, it’s also a perfect way to showcase commodity products that customers may not have associated Slingsby with. I also liked the feature on health and safety in the workplace detailing all the regulations with which businesses must comply—a feature that can be kept for future reference.

Slingsby's To Do Board

Work-it is a very comprehensive magalogue, with plenty going for it but there are also improvements to be made. Slingsby uses Feefo to gather customer feedback online, and featured a spread of reviewed products. I would have liked more to be made of this as the idea seemed a little half-baked. For example, for the £97.05 air cooler, the Work-it magalogue included 103 words of descriptive copy, compared with only 11 words of customer review. For the next edition, I’d like to see Slingsby print the entire customer review. After all, it’s commonly accepted that people trust other people’s opinions more than they trust sales copy. I would also like more “good, better, best” features. Slingsby included a “compare it” column on the same spread as the feedback, which in my opinion could be much improved and used more often throughout the publication. I’d like to see real-life examples as to why a particular item costs £200 more than a similar model and some pros and cons so that users can make a truly informed choice.

Evidently, this is an ideal vehicle for Slingsby to demonstrate its expertise in facilities management. And if it can work for that sector, it could work for any business-to-business merchant. There’s plenty of scope for an educational supplies cataloguer, for example, to produce a magalogue with the latest on the curriculum, interviews with recognised professionals in the sector, and ideas on “back to school”. A supplier of hair and beauty products to salons could use the format to create seasonal magalogues, such as hair and beauty at wedding season, or a summer special with advice on tanning or waxing. An IT products supplier has the potential to feature hints, tips and tricks of the trade to get the most out of the hardware it sells, plus expert advice and how-tos for specific IT projects--the opportunities are surely endless. I look forward to seeing all your magalogues very soon.--MT

Wednesday, 4 May 2011

April Catalogue Log

Catalogue volume took a dive in April. The Catalogue Log tracked 83 catalogues last month, compared with 140 in March and 104 in February. I suspect the three bank holidays in April had something to do with it.

April Offers Chart

Nevertheless, the good news is that volume was almost double what we tracked in April 2009—when we logged a mere 42 catalogues—and more or less in line with April 2010, which recorded 96 catalogues.

Comparing April 09, 10 and 11

The continuing trend for catalogues to feature more promotional front covers was evident in April. More than a third of catalogue covers promoted some sort of sale or discount. Although this was significantly lower than March and April, the figure is higher than we recorded in previous years—34.9 percent compared with 29.2 percent in April 2010 and 30 percent in April 2009. Among those using discounts to woo customers were apparel retailer Crew Clothing, which gave us 20 percent off everything, and vitamins and supplements mailer Higher Nature, which offered us 15 percent off our next order.

Free delivery was also marginally more popular in April 2011 than it was last year, with almost a fifth, or 16 catalogues, touting free shipping on the cover. Business-to-business marketers Staples Direct, Rajapack and Ironmongery Direct all offered their customers free next-day delivery. On the consumer side, clothing catalogues Hush and Pure Collection were among those to offer free delivery coupled with free returns.

Last month we also noted that 16.9 percent of catalogue covers offered a free gift with purchase. This is an appreciable increase on March, when only 10.7 percent of covers did so. Again, it was mostly offered by gardening and b-to-b catalogues, but we also saw sporting guns and shooting accessories cataloguer William Powell and apparel catalogue La Redoute use the tactic to encourage sales and/or higher average order values.

We noticed a trend for more magalogue-style mailings too. We’re getting quite accustomed to picking up customer magazines from merchants that have store networks, for example M&Co, New Look, Office or B&Q. LWork-itess common, as far as the Catalogue Log is concerned, is a b-to-b customer magazine. I think the reason we may not receive many b-to-b magalogues is that they are predominantly used as retention rather than acquisition tools. Because we’re less likely to purchase, say, building supplies on a regular basis, we probably don’t qualify to receive such a mailing. That said, we did receive a magalogue from industrial and commercial equipment cataloguer Slingsby in April.

The 64-page, glossy, perfect-bound magalogue titled Work-it features articles on health and safety in the workplace, a day in the life of one of its key staff, as well as product news and money-off vouchers. A more thorough review of the magalogue will be featured in an upcoming blog post. We’d love to know what Slingsby’s ROI is on the publication, because it’s certainly a great idea. Our favourite feature is the “To-do board”—but more on this later. --MT