Monday, 17 December 2012

In the Mail: our favourite Christmas covers

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas in the Direct Commerce office. Our Christmas tree is up, we’ve decorated the windows with lights and we’re all looking forward to exchanging gifts in the office secret Santa.

We’ve also been admiring festive catalogues and website homepages, and here are my three favourites of Christmas 2012.

JoJo Mamam Bebe
Edition: Christmas 2012 Collection
Format: 250mm x 212mm, 196pp, no order form
Special offer on the cover: yes, free delivery in the UK and Ireland
Addressing: polywrapped, address on back cover, mailing managed by OnePost
Range: maternity and baby wear, nursery products and toys
Delivery: Free
Why I picked it: While the saying goes, never work with children or animals, nursery specialist JoJo Maman Bebe has proved that putting an adorable child on your Christmas front cover is a winning tactic. It’s simple but effective. I love the colours, the lighting, the stars in the background, and of course, the star in the foreground.

Edition: Your Christmas Gift Guide
Format: 198mm x 146mm, 36pp, no order form
Special offer on the cover: yes, 3 for 2 on everything
Addressing: address on back cover, mailing managed by OnePost, delivered by Royal Mail
Range: clothing and accessories
Delivery: £1 for super saver, £3.95 standard delivery
Why I picked it: Everything about this catalogue is “on-brand”, from the colours of the wrapping paper, to the pink Joules wellies, to the strapline “Complete with all the trimmings”. This is the “good life” that Joules aspires to create and market. This is traditional Christmas, a Winter Wonderland. And did you notice it was “Your Christmas Gift Guide”? Those clever people at Joules certainly know how to “sell” Christmas.

Edition: Christmas Lights of Cornwall
Format: 212mm x 147mm, 68pp, no order form
Special offer on the cover: no
Addressing: address on back cover, delivered by Royal Mail
Range: clothing and accessories
Delivery: £3.95 standard delivery, £8.50 for next-day delivery
Why I picked it: A relative newcomer to mail order, this is Seasalt’s first Christmas catalogue and we hail it a creative success. Seasalt trades on its Cornish heritage, so this catalogue has a suitably nautical feel to it: lobster pots, sailor socks, paper boats and anchor motifs. With no pushy sales messages, such as free delivery or 3 for 2 deals, Seasalt has taken the soft-sell approach. Apart from the company name and catalogue title, the only other text reads: Very pleasing gifts.--MT

Friday, 14 December 2012

ECMOD plays host to tech and social innovations

One of the main themes to come out of last month’s ECMOD Direct Commerce show was the importance of technology and this was clearly evident on the exhibition floor with the likes of software services firm Omnica, shopping cart software specialist Etail Systems and business management software company Brightpearl all showing off their latest technologies.

One piece of news to be confirmed during the show came from digital asset management specialist Aproove, which announced a partnership with marketing services company Brightsource to help improve its print management and marketing services. Brightsource implemented Aproove’s instant artwork approval tool to reduce the bottlenecks that come from managing client's work.

Some more news from the floor came in the shape of transactional data expert Abacus, which launched a new data cleaning and suppression service, DataCleanse, at the show. The new tool cleans data, merges duplicate records, updates records for customers who have moved house and removes deceased individuals or companies no-longer trading as well as flags customers who have requested not to be contacted, through the mail and telephone preference services.

There were also some very eye catching promotions on the exhibition floor from exhibitorsHavas EHS, which hit the sweet spot by giving away candy to visitors, and the Metakineticteam, who were offering free popcorn on their stand, while the Specialist Works took the crown for “smartest” giveaway with its brain stress ball.

Back onto the technology theme, some of the conference sessions stressed the importance of innovating through new channels. In the Future of TV Shopping session, Richard Burrell, director of European market development at QVC, said new technology is an “opportunity not a threat”. For example, at QVC, smartphones are now the fastest growing channel with customers watching a segment on their mobile phones and buying on the web.

Social media was a hot topic too. In a session titled “B2B: Building Customer Loyalty”, social media and mobile were heralded as the leading force in the future of b-to-b. Guy Magrath, global head of ecommerce at Electrocomponents, said that with around “75 percent” of the population estimated to own a smartphone in the future, mobile will be “the way forward”. He added that mobile “will be big in b-to-b and the b-to-c environment”.  Richard Askam, founder and managing director at Intervino, also believes social media will be big and says “people used to go into a pub to talk, but now you go into social media.”

Chloe Thomas, the author of eCommerce MasterPlan, and Martin Harvey, the founder of direct marketing performance management firm Harvey2, in their session “Does social media have a valid role in ecommerce?” explained the importance of adding social media to your website and used the example of Firebox, which displays Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Google+ and email buttons on its product pages, as well as a customer rating option.

Lucy Jewson, the founder of Frugi, speaking in a panel session on the second day of the show echoed their comments. She said Frugi uses social media to ask customers about business decisions. Frugi has launched “a secret Facebook group” where a customer can become a “crusader” for the retailer. The childrenswear brand asks these crusaders to look at new designs and give their feedback as well as getting them to trial potential new products.

Another topic to come out of the conference sessions was the importance of communicating with customers. In the session“B2B: Building Customer Loyalty” Charles Barnett, managing director at Lyco, stressed that “communication is absolutely key” when building customer loyalty—for example explaining to a customer ahead of time that a delivery may be late. The session’s chairman Steve Bright added that companies need to “take ownership of a problem” and then follow that problem through to solution.

In another session called “Helping Santa Retire”, Tom Allason of Shutl highlighted the importance of feedback and how a business can use communication to its benefit. He explained how Shutl used communication to gain responses, such as asking your customers where they heard of you and what you can do to improve. This type of communication enables your business to get vital feedback from customers about how you can enhance your service and which social channels are working for you.--JD

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

November Catalogue Log

“Catalogues drive online”. That’s the verdict from the chief executive of N Brown Group Alan White, who was speaking at the ECMOD Conference last month.

N Brown is the corporate name behind Simply Be, JD Williams and Jacamo--mail order brands catering for a plus-size or older consumer. The company has a £90 million annual budget for print, and although it wants to shift some of that spend to digital initiatives, White acknowledges that doing so is much easier said than done. Speaking at the Power Panel session, he said that when N Brown’s brands reduce a catalogue’s pagination, “online sales drop too”.

His comments were echoed by Julian Granville of Boden, who admitted his company has had “little success in weaning people off catalogues”. He told delegates, “we are finding that if you take product out of catalogues sales [of those items] drop markedly—at least by 50 percent”. 

This goes some way to explain why we’re seeing an upward trend in the number of catalogues mailed in the run-up to Christmas. Multichannel retailers recognise that catalogues are one of the most effective tools to prompt people to shop online. In November 2012 we received 186 catalogues, a 5 percent increase on November 2011 and an 11 percent increase on November 2010. It’s also a rise of 9 percent on October’s volume, signalling also that Christmas really is getting later every year. 

Mailers in November seemed to hold back on special offers, with 53 percent of all catalogue covers making no mention of free delivery, a discount or a free gift. In fact, we tracked a decline in each one of those promotions. All told, November 2012 shared more in common with November 2011 than October 2012.

A third of catalogues (32.8 percent) featured a discount or sale on the cover. That’s in line with November 2011 (32.6 percent), but appreciably less than the 43.3 percent we recorded in October 2012. Educational toys specialist BrightMinds, the Duvet & Pillow Warehouse and hampers and gifts business GiftsDirect, were among those opting to sweeten the deal for customers with the promise of a special discount in November.
When it came to free delivery, 21 percent of the catalogues we received promoted free p&p on the front cover. Again, this figure was more or less the same as November 2011 (20.8 percent), but lower than the 26.3 percent we tracked in October. Apparel cataloguers Peter Hahn, Outdoor Look and John Banks chose to use this promotion in their November mailings.

A lower than average number of cataloguers promised a free gift with purchase last month—just 7 percent of catalogues. Often a freebie was teamed up with another offer, like in the case of Charles Tyrwhitt, which offered a free silk tie and a saving of £50 on shirts. Or Red House, which gave customers who spent £25 or more a free Gruffalo family calendar and free delivery on their order.
With more and more multichannel retailers reaching out to customers via catalogues at Christmas, is the print medium right for every business? Boden’s Julian Granville believes so. If he was starting from scratch, he told delegates at ECMOD, he would predominantly be an online business—but, he stressed, it will be a “stronger business if it has a paper tool to drive sales... Catalogues are here to stay”. Something to think about in your 2013 planning.--MT

We’ll be back with the December Catalogue Log in January, featuring a stats and insight roundup of 2012. To have your catalogue featured in our 2013 analysis, send your catalogues to:

The Catalogue Log
c/o Direct Commerce
First Floor Offices
155 High Street
Devon, EX34 9EZ

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Congratulations ECMOD Supplier of the Year Award winners

Eleven supplier companies were celebrated for their outstanding contribution to the multichannel and direct commerce sector at the ECMOD Supplier of the Year Awards ceremony. The awards evening on Tuesday, 27th November at the Business Design Centre in Islington, London was part of the ECMOD 2012 conference and exhibition.

The awards invited client-side companies to vote for the suppliers that really made a difference to their business in the past 12 months. A record 138 supplier companies were nominated for an ECMOD Supplier of the Year Awards. The list was whittled down to 34 finalists, but only 11 emerged victorious. 

3rd Party Order Fulfilment – Prism DM

Creative and Design Service – Catalogues 4 Business

Mail Delivery Service – Royal Mail

Mobile Commerce Solution/Service – Metakinetic

Home Delivery Service – Hermes

Web/Digital Development – smartebusiness

Print Production – Garnett Dickinson

Media Planning Service – The Specialist Works

Technology Solution – Postcode Anywhere

Data Services – Abacus

Payment Solution – Ogone

The awards were presented by Direct Commerce's editorial director Miri Thomas and head of sales James Webb. Photos from the night will be published in the January 2012 edition of Direct Commerce magazine. Click here to subscribe and receive your copy.

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Bid Now in the ECMOD Silent Auction

ECMOD’s chosen charity this year is Teenage Cancer Trust, which relies solely on donations to do its vital work. Through our fundraising this year, we're helping the organisation transform the lives of young people with cancer.

Thanks to our very kind clients, Direct Commerce magazine readers, ECMOD exhibitors and sponsors, there are lots of great items to bid for in this year’s ECMOD Direct Commerce Show Silent Auction—visit our online form to place your bids.

Prizes that have been donated so far include:
  • A corporate hospitality package for an Npower football championship game from Spatial Global
  • A brand/creative review by The Specialist Works, which will include either a finished press ad, a four-page insert or brochure, a storyboard for a TV ad, or a finished radio ad
  • A coalition email, waiving set-up and campaign fees, from Marketing Innovation Group
  • A 3mx2m stand at ECMOD 2013
  • A four-page pullout in Direct Commerce magazine
  • Stadium tour of Stamford Bridge, courtesy of Chelsea FC
  • Social Media Support package from IndiumTraining
  •  Voice branding worth £1,000 from Difference Corp
All proceeds go to the Teenage Cancer Trust, so please get involved—place your bid now!

Monday, 19 November 2012

See you at ECMOD

James and I will be covering the ECMOD Show this year, which takes place on 27th and 28th November at the Business Design Centre, London.

As well as attending the conference and featuring our pick of the sessions in this blog and upcoming editions of the magazine, we will also manage the Direct Commerce stand on the exhibition floor. Please drop by and say hello!

We’d love to meet readers, advertisers and potential new contributors at the show, so please get in touch if you’re attending. My email is and you can reach James on

See you there!

To find out more about ECMOD, visit

Friday, 16 November 2012

In the mail: November

They say you should never judge a book by its cover, but in the world of catalogues the front cover is definitely important. As Bob Ashwood of The Catalogue People wrote in Seven easy tips for creating better catalogues, “catalogues need to work hard. They need to engage, inform and motivate. We call it salesmanship in print. From front to back cover, you have the opportunity to make sales at every turn of the page”.

This is why, in this month’s In the Mail, I’ve chosen a collection that I feel really stands out from the crowd.
Bloomsbury & Co

Bloomsbury & Co
Format: 220mm x 167mm, 40pp, no order form
Special offer on the cover: no
Addressing: polywrapped, address on carrier sheet, delivered by Royal Mail
Range: eclectic gifts
Delivery: £3.95 standard, guaranteed next-day delivery £6.95, orders of £10 or less £1.95
Why I like it: quirky but functional, the Bloomsbury & Co catalogue is packed with unusual gifts and can seem quite chaotic at times with its myriad fonts and type sizes. But it remains really easy to shop from: product descriptions are where they should be, the telephone number and website are prominently displayed, and there was plenty of engaging content to keep me reading. What’s more, the way the catalogue is laid out, with so much packed into its 40 pages, each page demands a second look—for good reasons.
What’s missing: The offer of 15 percent off a first order is featured on the back cover and not the front. This is a bit of a missed opportunity. 

Honey Tree Publishing
Honey Tree Bespoke Stationers
Edition: Autumn 2012
Format: 210mm x 148mm, 8-page foldout mailer
Special offer on the cover: yes, 10% off plus free gift wrap with personal message and free p&p
Addressing: no polywrap, address printed on back, delivered by Royal Mail
Range: Personalised stationery
Delivery: free
Why I like it: The mailer is immediately appealing with Christmas lights, glittery stars and ribbons adorning the front cover. The USPs of bespoke and personalised stationery are strengthened by the message Made in Somerset, indicating that this is no mass-market product, but something that is lovingly created here in the UK. Other messages on the cover include no-risk guarantees, free standard delivery and the availability of a next-day express service. I also liked that Honey Tree called out the fact there were gifts to suit all budgets—as a non-essential product it’s good to know there are a range of price points to tempt customers in. It may be an exclusive product, but the mailer is very much an inclusive invite.
What’s missing: As a direct mail piece, it does the job very well and ticks a lot of boxes. If I had to make a suggestion, I would not have included the kitchen label range in this mailer and kept the focus on gifts.  A large amount of space is given to the labels, when it could be better spent on focusing on some of the bestselling motifs or writing fonts available.

Edition: Bright Ideas Collection
Format: 210mm x 148mm, 36pp, order form on back cover
Special offer on the cover: no
Addressing: in envelope
Range: Children’s toys
Delivery: Standard UK p&p £3.50
Why I like it: The Christmassy cover does it for me. Shaped like a tree, each “branch” is punctuated by a product from the range, given customers an at-a-glance look at what’s on sale inside. I also really like how the catalogue is colour-coded with each section clearly labelled, for example “arts and crafts”, “little ones”, and “personalised”. Although the catalogue is only 36 pages, the breadth of the range means the index on the inside front cover is very handy indeed.
What it’s missing: I seem to remember the Letterbox catalogue used to be A4-sized. Now half that, I think some of the type is too small—especially the What’s inside and Birthday Club copy on the inside front cover.  For the next edition I would like to see a slightly larger catalogue, not necessarily A4, but just a tad bigger than the  current offering.--MT

Thursday, 15 November 2012

What's on at the ECMOD Show

The ECMOD Direct Commerce Show, which takes place at the Business Design Centre on November 27th-28th, has pulled out all the stops to ensure ECMOD lives up to the promise of “Every Channel: Mastered, Optimised, Delivered”.

Now in its 22nd year, ECMOD delivers a show that combines the sharing of knowledge from inspirational speakers in the two-day conference, with an exhibition that brings together the systems, services, technology and expertise to address the ever changing needs of the multichannel retailer.

Don’t Miss…
Co-located with US-based Data Driven Business Week, which brings its international exhibitors to a UK audience, the combined exhibition space houses more than 80 specialist companies. Not only will visitors and delegates benefit from demonstrations of the latest products and learn in detail about the latest industry innovations, there’s all this too:

Fantastic Free Seminars
Industry giant Barclaycard has teamed up with ecommerce solutions specialist Powa to host two seminars on the 27th and 28th November dedicated to provide visitors with all the information they need to start selling online. These practical, best-practice sessions explain how to build an online store in less than an hour and why there has never been a better time to expand your online business.

Peruse the Catalogue Gallery
This year’s show will see the return of the Catalogue Gallery, sponsored by Warners Midlands, where visitors will see one of the most extensive collections of print catalogues you’ll find anywhere. Visitors are free to browse an array of more than 1,200 catalogues. If you want us to display your catalogue, then post your latest editions to the ECMOD offices, 155 High Street, Ilfracombe, EX34 9EZ before 20th November.

Win a Catalogue Makeover Courtesy of TA Design
The popular competition is back for its fifth year offering ECMOD visitors a free catalogue design makeover by catalogue specialist TA Design – worth up to £7,200! This is a very cost-effective offer in these turbulent times to help enhance your positioning and your sales for free.

Fancy Winning £2,500 Worth of Ecommerce Consultancy?
Head over to Metakinetic on stand 9 at the ECMOD show to enter a competition for your chance to win £2,500 worth of consultancy from its team of ecommerce experts on topics such as search marketing, ecommerce strategy and technical issues. And if that is not enough, Metakinetic is also giving away free popcorn.

Latte Love from Sanderson
After a heady morning on the exhibition floor, what could be more welcome than stopping for a coffee in the company of your peers? Sponsored by software solutions provider Sanderson, ECMOD visitors will be able to grab a coffee at any one of the coffee stands on the exhibition floor. While you’re there, why not pop along and say hello to the Sanderson team on stand 79?

How About a Cookie With That Coffee?
MediaLab, a fully integrated direct marketing agency offering advice on sourcing and provision of cold data, press and third party inserts, traditional print and digital media buying, e-crm and broadcasting services, lead generation and web optimisation will have a cookie machine on stand 28. So if you’re feeling a bit peckish you know where to go!

Workbooks and Wall Planners Available with Mohn Media
Visitors to ECMOD 2012 who want to talk about their print production can visit print and media services provider Mohn Media on stand 47 to take a look at its state-of-the-art machinery park with a brand-new 96-page web offset press. As a thank-you to interested visitors Mohn Media will keep workbooks and wall planners for you.

Free Catalogue Critiques
Creative agency Pindar Creative is offering visitors free catalogue critiques. Delegates can leave a copy of their catalogue on stand 11 and Pindar Creative will then get back to them with a report/suggestions on how they might improve the effectiveness of their catalogue design.

Who Will Win an ECMOD Supplier of the Year Award 2012?
With a record 138 suppliers receiving nominations, the ECMOD 2012 Supplier of the Year Awards presentation promises to be an exciting evening for all suppliers and their clients. The high number of entries means there are 34 companies competing for the spoils in just eleven categories in what is set to be one of the closest contests since the awards were launched nine years ago. The winners will be announced on the evening of the 27th November at the Business Design Centre in Islington, London. Click here to find out if your favourite supplier has made the cut.

Join CatEx DCA and Chase Paymentech for Breakfast
Mark your diary now for the members-only CatEx DCA Networking Breakfast place on 28th November during this year’s ECMOD Direct Commerce Show. Taking place from 8.10am to 9am, this is a fantastic opportunity for some early morning networking with like-minded business leaders over coffee. Tickets cost just £17.50 + VAT, but thanks to sponsor, payment processing specialist Chase Paymentech, CatEx DCA members who are exhibiting, speaking or attending the ECMOD Conference on the day receive a complimentary invite. To book, call the CatEx DCA team on 08718 555 545 or visit the CatEx DCA website. Remember… only CatEx DCA members have access to this exclusive opportunity, to find out more about becoming part of the trade body representing businesses in the direct commerce sector, visit

To take advantage of these offers and much more at the ECMOD Direct Commerce show, register now for your visitor pass

For more information about the ECMOD Conference, click here

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

Five Reasons Why You Should Visit ECMOD 2012

If you sell purely online, by printed catalogue, DRTV, or if you employ multiple channels to reach your customers, at the ECMOD Direct Commerce show, you can be sure every exhibiting business has a real commitment to supporting companies in the direct commerce sector.

Held at the Business Design Centre, London on 27th and 28th November, ECMOD is once again co-located with Rising Media’s Data Driven Business Week to bring its Conversion Conference, eMetrics Marketing Optimization Summit and Predictive Analytics World conferences to a UK audience.

Educational and informative, ECMOD is the must-visit event of 2012. Here’s why:

1. Fantastic Free Seminars
Industry giant Barclaycard has teamed up with ecommerce solutions specialist Powa to host two seminars on the 27th and 28th November dedicated to provide visitors with all the information they need to start selling online. These practical, best-practice sessions explain how to build an online store in less than an hour and why there has never been a better time to expand your online business.

2. Essential Networking and Inspiration
ECMOD fosters a friendly atmosphere of open debate between like-minded individuals. At the show there will be scores of people looking to share ideas, express concerns and progress in the ever challenging sector. Take the time to and mingle with fellow entrepreneurs, business leaders and pioneers; this is one environment where you’re sure to find inspiration.

3. Unrivalled Learning Opportunities
This year there will be a diverse range of speakers and exhibitors, who will be on-hand to help optimise your business to its full potential. From recruitment services to ecommerce, logistics to creative, any query you have will be answered professionally and extensively. Further, if you book a place on the ECMOD Conference, you will gain access to the combined wisdom of more than 80 of the industry’s greatest minds. In a nutshell, the ECMOD Conference won’t just tell you WHAT to do but HOW to do it.

4. Beat Your Competitors
Be the first to find out about the newest products and services with the chance to meet over 60 specialist suppliers to the direct commerce sector.

5. Supplier of the Year Awards
The ECMOD Supplier of the Year Awards recognise the outstanding contribution that supplier organisations make to the direct commerce sector. Unlike many others, these awards expressly call for nominations from client companies, and the winners will be those that received the most votes. Join us for an exciting evening where we will crown this year’s star suppliers. Tickets for the Awards are free for all registered visitors.

To visit this year’s exhibition, completely free of charge, click here.  

To find out more about the conference, click here.

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

ECMOD Supplier Award shortlist announced

The ECMOD organisers have announce the shortlist for the ECMOD Supplier of the Year Awards.
With a record 138 suppliers receiving nominations from some 420 client-side companies, the 2012 awards evening promises to be an exciting event for all finalists and their clients.

The record number of entries means there are 34 companies competing for the spoils in just eleven categories, in what is set to be one of the closest contests since the awards were launched nine years ago.
The eleven winners will be announced on the evening of the 27th November at the Business Design Centre in Islington, London.

Huge congratulations to all the companies that have made it this far. Has your star supplier made the shortlist?

ARM Leeds
Catalogues 4 Business
Citizen Communications
Garnett Dickinson
IPH Global
Keystone Software
Ogone Payment Services
Postcode Anywhere
Prism DM
Royal Mail    
The Specialist Works
Williams Commerce
Join us for the conference during the day and attend the awards ceremony in the evening at no additional cost. Review the speakers, sessions, topics and workshops and book your conference places on the ECMOD website.

For further information on attending the ECMOD Direct Commerce Show call the ECMOD team on 01271 866112 or register online for your free entry to the exhibition hall.

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Christmas early birds

One of our friends told us she’s already completed her Christmas shopping for 2012. We don’t know for sure, but we like to think it’s because canny email marketers are already sending their Christmas offers. Here are some of the early birds we’ve spotted nesting in our inbox:

You never know quite what you’ll get in a Firebox email, but we can all imagine the monstrosity that is a collection of “The World’s Best Christmas Jumpers, Ever”, which also happens to be the email’s subject line. The copy reads: “The festive season is fast approaching, and we’ve got the World’s Best Christmas Jumpers, Ever. Plus, some nice new additions to the Big Face T-Shirt range, customised coasters and cufflinks and some really Cynical Tea Bags.” Firebox knows novelty—and wears it so very well.

We want to get all “handmade” this Christmas, but we’ll probably end up getting all our presents gift-wrapped at checkout. Still, Notonthehighstreet does a stellar job in inspiring us to try a little bit harder this year.

Donald Russell
If, like us, you’re already thinking about your Christmas Day dinner, you’ll appreciate this email from Donald Russell. Pure carnivore heaven. But the best bit is clicking through to savour Donald Russell’s full Christmas menu. Yum.--MT

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

October Catalogue Log

I was talking to a former ecommerce director recently who told me of his time at the online retailer he previously worked at. He and his team had been working on a free delivery offer that was supposed to be emailed to only the most loyal segment of the database. Instead, he had hit send to the entire—considerably large—customer list. While he was getting ready to grovel to the boss and apologise for eroding margins, the results of the promotion came in showing a major sales uplift and a healthy ROI. From then on, free delivery became a staple offer.

Perhaps taking a leaf out of the same book, free delivery is also a staple offer on catalogue covers. Consistently throughout 2012, free delivery has featured on around one-fifth to one-quarter of all cover lines.  In October, free delivery was promoted on 26.3 percent, or 45 out of 171 catalogue covers. Not only is that the highest percentage for 2012, it’s the highest percentage we've ever logged, narrowly beating March 2012’s 26.1 percent. Among those promoting free shipping were Cath Kidston (free delivery on order of £30 or more), Dukeshill Ham (free delivery on a first order), Hayloft Plants (free p&p on orders of £50 or more) and Traidcraft, which set no conditions.

As with previous months, many cataloguers teamed up free delivery with another offer. One of the most promotionally heavy mailers during October was arts and crafts books seller Search Press, which offered a free book with orders of £40 or more, free p&p on all orders of £15 or more—extended to free delivery for all online orders, and a free gift with every purchase. Another bookseller, Red House, promoted selected titles at half price or less, free delivery and a free calendar when spending £25 or more.

While we’re on the topic of freebies, free gifts were slightly more popular than they had been in September, featuring on 8.8 percent of the catalogues we logged. That’s slightly higher than October 2011, but lower than the 10.2 percent we tracked in October 2010.

All told, 60 percent of the 171 catalogues we tracked in October featured some sort of special offer. That’s the highest percentage since June and much more promotional than October in 2011 or 2010, which both hovered around the 50 percent mark. It's also worth noting at this point that catalogue volume was up again in October; 171 catalogues compared with 167 in October 2011.

The most popular offer promoted on catalogues last month was still a discount or sale, which saw a resurgence in October. We tallied 74 catalogues, 43.3 percent, touting a special price promotion, including Elderberry (Save 10 percent on order of £40 or more), Evans (20 percent off an order of £40 or more), Lands’ End (25 percent off everything) and Tradewinds Direct (10 percent off everything).

Last year, we tracked a similar percentage (41.9 percent) offering a sale or discount on the cover. It was followed by a steep drop in November (to 32.6 percent) and then back up to 53.7 percent for the final Christmas push. The same pattern was recorded in 2010, with the popularity of price-based promotions declining appreciably in November and soaring again in December. I will be keeping my eyes peeled as to whether the trend continues in 2012.--MT

** Ever wondered how we compile the Catalogue Log? Come along to ECMOD and see for yourself. 
The Catalogue Gallery, sponsored by Warners Midlands is one of the most extensive collections of print catalogues you'll find anywhere. 
Want to feature your work? Be sure to send your catalogues for display. Post them to Catalogue Log, First Floor Offices, 155 High Street, Ilfracombe, Devon, EX34 9EZ** 

Thursday, 1 November 2012

Dart’s data: the couch potato issue

If you are a retailer that sells through DRTV or are considering doing so, take note of some interesting research from IMRG and Thinkbox to help convert viewers into buyers.

According to the latest eCustomerServiceIndex, conducted by eDigitalResearch and IMRG, 80 percent of smartphone owners, 81 percent of tablet owners and 73 percent of laptop owners use their devices in front of the television in a process that has been dubbed “second screening”.

The study highlights retail websites were amongst the most popular sites to visit and browse as were social media sites and search engines. Almost half of users (41 percent) were encouraged to browse for a product after seeing something on a television programme or advert with nearly one third (30 percent) having made a purchase afterwards.

If this highlights the influence that TV has on consumer behaviour, another study by Ipsos MORI on behalf of Thinkbox really drives home the message. Its survey of 2,000 UK adults shows that 40 percent of people in Britain believe that programmes or adverts they have watched on television has inspired them to act more positively, such as donating to charity, being more environmentally friendly, eating more healthily or taking part in sport.

Breaking this down, the report shows 43 percent of those inspired by TV advertising have been encouraged to give to charity, compared to 33 percent for TV programmes. The study highlights that TV inspired positive behaviour more than any other medium with the internet (16 percent), newspapers (16 percent), radio (14 percent), magazines (14 percent), the high street (9 percent) and direct mail (6 percent).--JD

Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Idea to steal: heat maps

If you watched the Channel 4 documentary on sex-toy retailer Lovehoney in May, you may remember that Ordnance Survey was thanked at the very end of the programme. According to Lovehoney’s head of ecommerce Matt Curry, this was because “they bent over backwards providing me with data for the sex map”. The sex map he’s referring to is the interactive heat map created by in 2009, where visitors can find out which towns and cities in the UK spend the most on sex toys. 

Among other news outlets, the sex map was featured in the Sun, demonstrating that creating content like this can provide an online retailer with exclusive data that it can use for blogs, press releases and other SEO-enhancing purposes.

Now, Lovehoney says that to create the sex map it first took an anonymous sample of more than 500,000 orders placed at Lovehoney. Then it aggregated the data into regions that match the population statistics from the UK Census. Finally it divided the amount of money spent in each region by the number of people who live there to give the average spend per head on all sex products.

To steal this idea, you can also simplify it by relying on your order history.

For Halloween, fancy-dress retailer analysed three years of sales data to pinpoint where in the UK spent the most on zombie costumes. It then used the data to create a landing page on its website where people could track the hot spots and choose to stay away or join the throngs of undead roaming the streets on 31st October.

Zombie apocalypse

The product types a heat map could work for is potentially unlimited. Take anti-allergy items, for example. A retailer could create something similar to the Kleenex hay fever map in the summer. By analysing sales of allergy-related products, it could show where in the country is suffering the most.

Another example is the UK Snow map. The Brits love talking about the weather, so perhaps a heat map where most of your umbrella buyers are? Or which city in the UK spends the most on bikinis?

Of course, it’s not all for the benefit of consumers or the media. If you don’t already analyse your sales by geography, this is a great way to really understand your customers’ behaviour and tailor your product offering to their needs as well as promoting your most relevant offers at key times.--MT

Monday, 29 October 2012

Spooktacular opportunities at Halloween

If you are a seller of sweets and treats, fancy dress costumes, food and drink, pumpkins and gifts you can expect an obvious BOOst in consumer spend this Halloween and Bonfire Night, but retailers who think that they will not benefit from the events should think again.

A recent YouGov Sixth Sense study has revealed that people in the UK are expected to spend in excess of £650 million celebrating Bonfire Night and Halloween this year.  But it also found that only 23 percent of UK adults are set to participate in the festivities, spending an estimated £268 million on Halloween alone. A slightly greater percentage of adults (29 percent) expect to participate in activities to celebrate Bonfire Night, held on Monday 5th November, spending an estimated £386 million—mostly on fireworks (12 percent) and food and drink for parties (12 percent).

The results from the YouGov research show that while a significant amount of money is expected to be spent on Halloween and Bonfire Night this year, currently only a small percent of the population is actively spending. What this means for retailers is that there’s scope to convert more consumers into shoppers at this time of year. And you don’t have to sell scary costumes to make a killing either.
An obvious example is a pet store, which could promote products to calm pets who may be distressed by fireworks. Petmeds, for instance, currently has a Bonfire Night landing page promoting its dog-appeasing pheromone products and herbal remedies for relief of anxiety and nervousness in pets.

Another, perhaps not so obvious example is a camera retailer, which could encourage customer engagement by running a competition for the best fireworks photo. The competition could be promoted via email and social media to generate brand awareness—and potentially sales.

For apparel retailers, how about an email to promote winter coats to keep revellers warm at a Bonfire Night party? Even kitchenware retailers could get in on the act by promoting social media campaigns such as vote for the best pumpkin pie recipes. Marie Chantal, an upscale retailer of childrenswear, has joined in with the spirit of things by inviting customers to send in their children’s drawings. All pictures will be featured on the brand’s Facebook and Pinterest pages. The best one wins a prize.

These examples are just the tip of the iceberg and show that retailers have a big opportunity to get more people spending and make the most of these two new key dates in the calendar.--JD

Friday, 26 October 2012

No tricks, just treats

Halloween sales from British customers are going to be scarily good this year according to, an ecommerce platform for small businesses.

Last year it’s estimated that sales for Halloween-related merchandise hit £315 million in the UK, up from £280 million in 2010. No doubt retailers are hoping to smash that target this year and with UK consumers now the second-biggest buyers of fancy dress costumes in the world, there should be plenty of scope to do so.

Looking more closely at the research, what I found of note in Alibaba’s study is that the UK is the only country that the Professional/Uniforms category had more searches than the Animals/Insects category. Clearly Brits like more realistic role play, or they find animals too childish a choice? As one fifth of costume searches for babies and kids in the UK were for animal or insect outfits, this could be the case. Add to the mix the recent animal-related film releases of Finding Nemo 3D and Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted, which have no doubt had an impact on what children want to dress up as this Halloween.

It also seems that as a nation we’re ditching scary and opting for funny this Halloween. Alibaba says it’s seen a 19 percent year-on-year increase in online searches of zentai/morph suits, while other popular fancy dress suits in the UK include sexy costumes, cartoon mascot suits and TV and movie costumes.

In the battle for the costume and mask crown, it is the queen that is crowned the winner, accounting for 39 percent of enquiries, while witch (32 percent), princess (26 percent), king (3 percent) and prince (no searches) were much less popular—highly surprising, considering a certain Prince’s dressing up antics.

And if you don’t sell fancy dress? Never fear. Alibaba says it’s seen a 20 percent rise in online searches for event and party supplies, meaning that even if you don’t specialise in novelty clothing, you can still make the most of Halloween by selling seasonal gifts and party supplies.--JD

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Catalogue we love: Graham & Green

I’ve heaped praise on Graham & Green before, a couple of years ago the furniture and gifts marketer sent me the best Valentine’s Day email of the bunch. This time, however, it’s the catalogue that’s getting the thumbs up.
Graham & Green, interiors and gifts

Why I love it
The cover is a trendy matt paper, but inside Graham & Green uses a silky paper stock. From a subjective point of view, this makes a HUGE difference. Graham & Green sells products that demand a closer look, the range is full of texture, pattern and colour and a matt paper stock would completely dilute all of that. So many catalogues make the mistake (in my opinion) of using a matt stock to show off homewares and fashion. I’ve noted several new entrants to mail order (I received one catalogue recently that used such a thick stock the paper wouldn't lie flat when turning the page) as well as established brands doing so. Little details are lost in the matt paper—just look at the image below from the Jack Wills catalogue.

Jack Wills
Another reason I love the Graham & Green catalogue is because it’s immediately obvious from the cover what’s on offer. I even like that the zebra rug is a bit wonky, it fits in well with the quirkiness of the brand. The additional bonus of 10 percent off is always an added incentive to look inside.

Now contrast this with Anthropologie’s “Introducing Autumn” mailer (below). A dark grey cover, with barely legible text. How is this representative of the brand? What would make people open this?
Although the Graham & Green layout is quite uniform—one full-page image, two or three smaller images on the opposite page, each catalogue spread looks different. That’s testament not only to the design team, but also to the buyers, who have put together a wonderfully eclectic range.

If you're looking for an idea to steal, it's the way Graham & Green presents the more “boring”, but absolutely necessary, details. On the inside back cover, it uses its signature pink colour to list opening hours, delivery charges and returns information so that everything is accessible at a glance. The result is a page that contains all the details I need, but that isn’t cluttered with terms and conditions.

Finally, the back cover works hard too. I’ve blogged before about how annoyed I get when sent on a wild goose chase to find products, so I was glad when Graham & Green avoided the issue by directing me from the front to the back cover, where all the products featured on page 1 were listed.

One suggestion I’d make is bringing more of Jamie and Louise Graham into the catalogue. In their letter on the inside front cover, Jamie writes “Louise and I work hard to uphold our reputation and family name, as patrons of the kooky, unique and eccentric”. I would really like to see what they look like, what their house is like and what their favourite products are. Perhaps the centre spread could be dedicated to a recent buying trip, or a project Louise and Jamie are working on. For a catalogue and brand that’s all about self-expression through colour and design, it would be great to find out about the personalities of its owners.--MT

Wednesday, 3 October 2012

September Catalogue Log

Whereas August is traditionally a low volume month, September is one of the year’s best performers and 2012 didn’t disappoint. We received a whopping 204 catalogues last month, eclipsing August’s haul of 85. What’s more, 204 is the second-highest number we’ve tracked to date; September 2009 still holds the record with 212 catalogues received in one month.

To put it in context with the rest of 2012, in March, the month with the second greatest volume, we'd received 157 catalogues. Or, if you look at it another way, of the 957 catalogues logged during the first nine months of 2012, more than one-fifth (21 percent) were received in September.

I have to make an admission here, more than a third of the catalogues we tracked did not come through the post. We picked up 10 catalogues in-store, 22 inserts in the national and local press or magazines, and 39 catalogues were collected at the Autumn Fair or GLEE trade shows. The addition of those 39 trade catalogues contributed to the highest number of b-to-b catalogues we’ve tracked this year, 58 in total. In fact, 58 is the highest number of business-to-business catalogues to cross my desk in a one-month period since we began logging the catalogues for the purposes of this blog. The previous highest number was 49, received in July 2009 (When we received seven different versions of the Viking catalogue and eight versions of the Neat Ideas, now Staples, catalogue—make of that what you will).
Offers promoted on September covers
While the number of catalogues received in September 2012 soared, the percentage promoting sales and discounts dropped dramatically, from 34.1 percent in August to 23.3 percent in September. Again, that’s a record-breaking figure—the lowest ever. Among those offering a discount were Ashridge Nurseries (5 percent off online orders), Elderberry (10 percent off a £40 spend) and Pia jewellery (15 percent).

Discounts are out, free delivery is in
In contrast to the significant drop in discounting—which has happened for the third month on the trot—the offer of free delivery was on par with the previous month, 18.1 percent in September, compared with 18.8 percent in August. B-to-b mailers Slingsby and Nisbets and b-to-c catalogues Peter Christian and Mint Velvet were among those offering free delivery. Apparel retailer Mint Velvet also teamed up the offer with a 15 percent discount to celebrate the launch of its first catalogue.
Mint Velvet
The percentage of catalogues offering a gift with purchase was a meagre 5.9 percent in September. That’s down from August’s 10.6 percent and the high, in April, of 14 percent. Among September’s gifts-with-purchase were 40 free Narcissus Hawera bulbs with any bulb order at Unwins, a digital radio alarm clock from Fashion World and a cornucopia of gifts at Fishtec, including a filleting set or a tackle and bait bag.

After tracking declines in our each one of the cover lines we monitor, we also noted that almost 61 percent of the catalogues we received featured no offer whatsoever. As we get closer to Christmas it would be interesting to keep an eye on whether the percentage of catalogues offering a discount on the front cover will rise again, or whether cataloguers will continue their shift away from low prices to other special offers, such as free gifts or free delivery.

It’s also worth noting that a lot of the catalogues we track now put their special offers on a separate insert, this is presumably so they can test a variety of offers but print only one version of the catalogue—a money-saving tactic. This was something online tea shop Bettys (free delivery on orders over £30), apparel marketer Cashmere Centre (free £10 gift voucher), art-inspired gifts catalogue Culture Vulture (10 percent off orders of £40 or more) and Myakka (free elephant wall hook or woollen scarf) all did. I would wager that the trend will continue. Perhaps it's time to add another column to the Catalogue Log spreadsheet.--MT

Monday, 1 October 2012

Compare and contrast: Wayfair

It’s been said that US online retailer Wayfair has its sights set on being the “Amazon of homewares”. To achieve its ambition, the company has embarked on aggressive international expansion, and now has international offices in Ireland, the UK, Germany and Australia.

The business, which is on track to beat last year’s turnover of $500 million, has recently signed a deal with UK-based supermarket Tesco that will see it extend Wayfair’s reach into the UK by offering an expanded range of home goods through Tesco Direct. This, says Wayfair cofounder and chief executive Niraj Shah, offers the Boston, MA-based company “an unparalleled global channel to reach millions of new households in the UK”. Wayfair currently offers 20,000 products on Tesco Direct and plans to increase that number to 60,000 by end of the year.

In addition to its presence on the Tesco marketplace, Wayfair also operates the UK website, which the company says is seeing “rapid growth”. Although the websites of the UK and US operations look similar, there are some subtle—and not-so-subtle differences. Let’s start with the homepage.
Wayfair UK homepage
The first thing I noticed on the UK homepage (above) is that it is static. The largest box in the centre displays a take on the company’s strapline “zillions of possibilities”, with an image of a woman looking at what appears to be a chandelier. The call to action is to shop now, which when clicked on turns into a search bar—a nice touch. Below the main image are nine smaller boxes labelled bedroom, dining, lighting, bathroom, garden, cookware, living room, children, office, which when clicked on take the user to a dedicated landing page.
Wayfair US
Now contrast this with the Wayfair US homepage (above). Here the retailer uses a rotating main banner that shifts between four images: the Angelo home collection, “Welcome Home”, 45 percent off kitchen carts and islands, and things we love. Although I prefer this to the UK approach, in my opinion the banner moves far too quickly to really take in all the information.

Below the main banner is another dynamic image next to the “shop by category” section designed to show the breadth of the range. Moving further down the page is a gallery of recent press, with Wayfair showcasing its coverage in Coastal Living, Good Housekeeping and House Beautiful. Both sites have a similar space for company information such as about, my account and “info & policies”. Notably though, the US site features more social media than the UK website with a link to its Facebook page, Twitter stream, Pinterest page and Google+, as well as the Wayfair blog. The UK site only mentions Facebook and a measly 938 fans, compared with the US website’s 50,993 likes.

Both sites operate a dropdown menu from the main horizontal navigation on the home page, but I noticed the menu is divvied up slightly differently on each site. Mirroring the boxes below the main image, the UK site repeats most of the categories along the top nav bar, adding more and special offers at the end. The US site has the same number of categories along the top, but when a user hovers across the site, it’s evident that the product choice on the US website is much, much broader.

Let’s go shopping
To start my shopping journey I headed for the search bar, placed above the main nav bar on both pages. Both sites make use of predictive search, bringing up options as I type (towel rails in bathroom; towels in bathroom; paper towel holders in kitchen, and so on). Reassuringly, both sites have plenty of options to filter down the search even further on the left-hand side.

UK product page
The product pages were also very similar. The free shipping offer was very prominent and customers can earn Wayfair rewards—the company’s loyalty points programme—on both sides of the Atlantic. At first I completely missed the social networking icons, but eventually located them at the top right of the product description. I would normally look for these in the same area as the price, or nearer the image, so the placement of the social links threw me. I wonder whether this affects others too, and whether Wayfair could boost social sharing, but trying out new positions for the icons.
US product page
After adding to basket, the US could take some tips from the UK website. Whereas the US site takes me to the basket, where I can either pay for my order, go back to the home page, or click “save for later”, which takes me to my wish list. None of the options allow me to go back to the towel section where I started my shopping journey. The UK site (below) handles the “add to basket” move a lot better.

Add to basket
Upon clicking to purchase an item, I am taken to a page that shows what I had just placed in my basket, and on the right-hand side I’m explained all the costs. Below the item is the cross-sell and upsell of “Also In This Collection” and “Customers Also Bought”. Best of all, if I click continue shopping, just under the price, I am taken to the exact page where I left off, so no hunting around to find what I was previously looking at.

Where the UK site falters is in the copy—especially for higher value items.  Here’s the copy for the “Julian Bowen Supra Sofa Bed in Black”, priced at £222.98:

• Supra range
• Black fabric
• Closed sitting position: 79cm H x 197cm W x 88cm D
• Open sleeping position: 38cm H x 197cm W x 99cm D

Followed by:
Supra Sofa Bed in Black,    79cm H x 197cm W x 88cm D,    Weight: Unavailable
Colour: Black
Product Category:  Sofas
Style: Modern
Type: Sofa Beds, Sofas
Upholstery:  All Fabric

Now compare it with the US approach, here for the “Ave Six Mainstreet Sofa”, which costs $302.99:
Make an eye-catching change to your home with this classic Mainstreet Sofa in Seaweed. The Mainstreet Collection from Avenue Six brings us a contemporary line inspired by a classic design. This sofa brings fashion and elegance including solid wood legs and plush foam filled cushions. With its durable fabric detailed design, and sturdy arms this sofa is up to par with the fanciest of rooms. Its combination of style and price make this piece a great option to complement the current décor of any home or office.

•    Available in Woven Seaweed and Cream fabric
•    Stylish solid wood legs made to match the most elegant of room setups
•    Covered in a high performance, easy care fabric
•    RTA design for convenience and easy shipping
•    Frame constructed of a sturdy kiln dried hardwood
•    Dacron wrapped foam cushions for ultimate comfort
•    Tools included for quick and easy assembly
•    Dimensions: 32" H x 49" W x 29" D
•    Avenue Six Limited Warranty (for details click here)

While it’s accepted that there is no one-size-fit-all answer to how much copy is the right amount, I think we can all agree that the way the US site describes the item is more likely to educate, reassure and convince potential customers to part with their cash.

Overall, while the UK site still has some catching up to do—certainly when it comes to product description and depth of range—Wayfair UK is on the right tracks to overtake its home-grown rivals with a site that ticks many boxes.--MT

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Friday, 28 September 2012

Dart’s data: the email marketing issue

Email marketing is a vital component in your marketing arsenal, which can be used to build loyalty, trust and brand awareness. Yet despite this, a recent study has found that 40 percent of marketers do not have analytics in place to determine inbox placement rates, while another report says only 17 percent of online retailers implement a basket abandonment email.

Email intelligence provider Return Path, in conjunction with The Relevancy Group, surveyed more than 300 senior marketing executives and found that more than 40 percent of them do not have analytics in place to determine inbox placement rates for their email campaigns. This means that two-fifths of marketers have no idea what happens to their email after they hit send. The report also found that less than a quarter of marketers (23 percent) analyse competitors’ email marketing campaign performance, despite research indicating that doing so increases overall revenue from a campaign by 25 percent or more.

Of the marketers surveyed, 65 percent said that access to the right data is a challenge for their organisations with nearly a third stating that they do not know how to access data when it’s time to evaluate a campaign.

Further, although it’s widely acknowledged that relevancy rules, more than half of those surveyed (55 percent) are unable to perform any audience segmentation meaning they blast the same message to every subscriber, regardless of their previous purchases.

Staying with the email marketing trend, behavioural email provider RedEye in its fifth Behavioural Email Benchmark Study shows marketers are missing an opportunity to engage with users to improve conversion. The study researched the pre-purchase email communication used by of the likes of,, Miss Selfridge, H&M and Homebase. It found that 19 percent of the top online retailers in the UK don’t allow precheckout registration, of which 9 percent don’t allow any type of prepurchase email communication. From those retailers allowing prepurchase registration, 78 percent sent a specific welcome email with 13 percent of these firms implementing a full welcome programme consisting of more than one trigger.

RedEye also discovered that among its clients that implement a basket abandonment programme, emails achieve an average conversion rate of 17 percent. Those marketers using a basket abandonment follow-up email convert, on average, an additional 14 percent of users. Surprisingly though, the survey found that only 17 percent of online retailers currently made use of a basket abandonment email.--JD

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

Dart’s data--a very merry Christmas for mcommerce

With Direct Commerce’s upcoming October issue dispensing some last-minute yuletide tips and tweaks, this issue of Dart’s data looks ahead to Christmas with a report predicting mobile sales to increase over the festive period.

According to research by IMRG, the percentage of UK online sales made through a mobile device could reach one in five (20 percent) by Christmas 2012, with the percentage of site visits through mobiles expected to be at around one in three (30 percent). The prediction comes after the latest results from the IMRG Capgemini Quarterly Benchmarking Index, which revealed that sales through mobile devices rose to 11.6 percent in the second quarter of 2012, up from 8.2 percent in the first quarter.

Staying with mobile, a new survey commissioned by mcommerce specialist MoPowered and conducted by online and mobile research agency OnePoll found that 84 percent of small-to-midsized fashion retailers did not have a mobile site, but that 89 percent believed mcommerce to be essential to the future success of their business. The study, which surveyed 300 managerial professionals, highlights that firms were put off setting up a mobile optimised site due to security concerns (33 percent concerned about the risk of mobile payments) and the set-up being too time-consuming (36 percent).

Retailers must tread carefully when it comes to their mobile strategy to minimise the risk of customer attrition. Although more than half of the respondents (52 percent) in Strongmail’s mobile marketing survey said they would be open to receiving promotional messages via email at least once a week, 60 percent said they would never want to receive SMS and in-app missives. The report, conducted by Forrester Consulting, found that around a third of smartphone users (32 percent) have made a purchase after receiving a promotional email. However only 6 percent of smartphone users made a purchase after receiving an SMS or in-app message.--JD

Monday, 17 September 2012

Compare and contrast: QVC

Say QVC and I bet most people will immediately associate it with TV shopping. However, the company now makes a significant percentage of its turnover from its online operations around the world.  It’s estimated that in terms of sales, QVC is the eighth largest online retailer in the US.

Active in the UK since 1993, QVC UK now broadcasts 24 hours a day, 365 days a year with 17 hours of live programming each day. To complement its website and TV shopping offering, QVC launched a mobile app for the iPhone and more recently for Android devices. In 2011, QVC UK achieved revenues of £390.9 million, while US sales hit $5.4 billion for the year (approximately £3.3 billion), with online accounting for 40 percent of QVC's US turnover.
QVC US homepage
The first thing that hit me when I landed on the US website (above) was how much bigger the site is. I don’t mean figuratively, in that it has more product on display, the site is visually bigger. Viewed on a large monitor (1680x1050) the main image takes a huge chunk of the screen’s real estate. In addition, the homepage features a sidebar on the right-hand side displaying items recently promoted on air.

QVC UK homepage
In contrast, the UK site (above) is centralised and the main banner appears to be no more than 760 pixels wide, compared to the US where the banner scales up to a width of approximately 920 pixels. Another reason the US site appears bigger is that each item in the top navigation is allowed more space. There are nine categories along the top, compared with 10 in the UK. They are: Fashion, Shoes & Handbags, Jewelry, Beauty, Kitchen & Food, For the Home, Electronics, Clearance, More. The UK site adds a tab for the homepage (Home) alongside Brands, Beauty, Fashion, Shoes & Handbags, Jewellery, Home & Leisure, Electricals, Garden & DIY, Clearance.

The US site doesn’t have a section specifically for brands, instead it includes a “shop by brand” option within a flyout menu from the main navigation. When you compare the two approaches, the US method seems the most user-friendly. A user can hover over the product category, such as Electronics, then select to narrow the choices to Dell or Canon, for example. No flyout menu on the UK site, users have to click on the Brands tab to be taken to an A to Z of some 400 brands. A click on a particular brand name takes users to a page featuring all the products sold by QVC of that brand regardless of product category.  Switching to a flyout menu on the homepage of the UK site would render the Brands tab redundant; but before QVC does that it has to make its navigation more intuitive.

I like my web experiences like I like my coffee—robust but smooth
Using the brands tab I found that QVC UK sells Illy coffee and coffee makers. But try to find them without using the search bar or the brands tab and the task is far more complicated than it should be. My first choice was clicking on the Electricals tab on the homepage. The Electicals landing page gave nothing away, so I clicked on Household Electricals, hoping to find coffee makers in the list. This switched me away from Electricals to the Home & Leisure section, but an image on the right titled Kitchen Appliances looked promising so I clicked. I was presented with one page of results, which featured a Cuisinart coffee maker, but no mention of the Illy machine I had spotted just moments ago. I clicked to go back to the category landing page to take a closer look and see whether coffee makers had their own subheading—nope.

Home and Leisure category

Returning to the main Home & Leisure category page, my next two logical options were narrowing down my search to Kitchen or to Food. I chose Kitchen from where I could filter to Juicers & Drink Makers (no coffee makers here) or Kitchen Electricals (now experiencing a touch a of déjà vu). Bingo! The Illy Coffee maker. Happily, the product page has an effective cross-sell mechanism built in as it recommended I buy the coffee refills at the same time. I’d hazard a guess that QVC could really beef up sales of its coffee makers by having the department easier to find. Surely by calling the department Kitchen Electricals, it would have made sense to include it within the Electricals section as well?
Illy Product Page
To compare the experience, I shopped for a coffee maker on the US site. No Illy brand, so I selected Delonghi. I hovered over Kitchen & Food first and selected the fifth option, Kitchen Electricals. From here, the comprehensive left-hand navigation let me filter my choice to Coffee & Tea Makers. Now in my chosen subcategory, I could either browse all, filter down to Espresso Makers or simply click on the brand name from the left-hand navigation bar. Even more impressive is that the US website lets me compare the different items in the selection against one another, though sadly when side by side, I can’t see each item’s specs. What it does do is create a reference point to come back to rather than being presented all the options again.

Price comparison on the US website
 Considering the two websites represent the same brand, they are miles apart in terms of usability and in terms of visual appeal. The US site instantly strikes me as a far more modern website. Take the presentation of Today’s Special Value item, for example. The UK site promotes the Oreck XL Lightweight Vacuum Cleaner (below left), while the US (below right) goes for the Voice Guided Pressure Cooker w/Recipe Book. Although both pages contain similar information, including cross-sells and videos, the US site is far more compelling: it’s more colourful, the calls to action are stronger and although only slightly larger, the price and saving have more impact on the American site. Perhaps it’s the inclusion of the Speed Buy button?

For another example, see how the US site presents the Clarks brand. To see all Clarks shoes on the UK site, users need to either search for the brand name, user the Brands tab or click on the Shoes & Handbags category. From here, a small box image links to the Clarks subcategory. When users reach the Clarks section there is no banner image greeting them, we’re straight into a list of shoes and the only option to filter results is by price bracket.

Shop for Clarks shoes in the UK
Contrast that with the US. From the flyout, users can select Clarks and be taken to a Clarks landing page, complete with a clickable main image and various filters from price through to style and colour. Perhaps most importantly, as it is QVC after all, the US site lets users view videos of each item. The UK doesn’t.
Shop for Clarks shoes US

All told, the US website is far more advanced than its UK counterpart, which leads to a disparate brand experience. A quick look at the homepages of the QVC Germany and QVC Italy websites (below) indicates that they have much more in common with the US parent. With its international sisters well ahead of it aesthetically, the UK site is clearly overdue its makeover. --MT

QVC GermanyQVC Italy