Now compare this with a year ago. While a discount was still the most popular special offer in May last year, the percentage was appreciably lower. In May 2010, just 32.5 percent of covers promised a special-price offer, compared with 49.4 percent last month. The discounts offered this year were also quite deep, with plenty of apparel cataloguers offering more than 20 percent off—including Pure Collection, The Shoe Tailor, Hotter Comfort Concept and Damart.
Much more popular last year was free delivery, which was offered by 24.1 percent of covers. In May 2011, free delivery was only offered by 16 catalogues, or 17.8 percent. Again, a wide cross-section of product categories promoted free delivery on the cover including apparel (Brora), gardening (Garden Bird Supplies, Wiggly Wigglers), and office supplies (Staples Direct).
One offer that was almost twice as popular last year was a free gift with purchase. We noted that 20.5 percent of catalogues logged in May 2010 offered a freebie, compared with just 11 percent in May 11. Incidentally 11 percent was also the figure we recorded in May 2009. Looking back at the data, most of the free gifts in 2010 were offered by business-to-business cataloguers, with the exceptions including homewares catalogue Really Linda Barker and gifts marketer The Owl Barn—two catalogues we did not receive this May.
The percentage of catalogue covers not offering any sort of special deal fell from 47 percent in April to 37.8 percent in May, or 34 out of 91. One of those catalogues choosing not to tempt us with promotions was gifts marketer NotOnTheHighStreet.com, which instead sent two versions of its Perfect Gift Guide 2011.
Both were 36-page catalogues, but one was mailed naked on thick-grade matt paper, while the other was a smaller format on thinner, silkier paper stock. Playing spot the difference with the mailings showed subtle differences in the layout and design of the spreads, but the products were mostly the same. If this was a test mailing to see which yielded a better response, it’s odd that I received both editions. I ran quick poll in the Catablogue e-business office to gauge preference. Sixty percent opted for the smaller, glossier catalogue for tactile reasons. The larger format won kudos for seeming to be more environmentally friendly, though the paper carried no eco-friendly credentials that I could see. In case you’re interested, I chose the larger format because of standout appeal—it looked different to the other 90 catalogues I looked at last month. Whether that’s a good or bad thing is up to NotontheHighStreet to analyse.--MT