Friday, 30 March 2012

Short-sighted service

I have a beef with Specsavers.

I’ve been a user of its Lensmail scheme since 1999, getting my contact lenses sent to me through the post. Everything about the customer service I’ve received over the past 13 years has been exemplary, from my regular contact lens checks in addition to sight tests, to calling the Lensmail people with any enquiries.

Convenience and value?
Recently the service got better with more bonuses added to the scheme. I now get completely free sight tests, as well as free annual check-ups at the contact lens clinic and money off glasses.

I should be a satisfied customer, right? I really want to be. But there are two issues that bother me:

1. The Lensmail parcel arrives with only my lenses in it and a despatch note. There are no special offers included. I don’t remember ever ticking a box that told Specsavers never to send me marketing material. When I went for my last sight test, I had no idea it was free. A nice surprise at the time, but it could have told me sooner by including some of the lesser-known benefits of the Lensmail scheme in my parcel. Surely learning about those added extras may persuade someone considering leaving Specsavers for a cheaper provider to stay? It’s also prime position for third-party inserts. Some extra revenue for Specsavers just waiting to happen.

2. My other gripe is the way replacement lenses are handled. I recently tore one of my lenses and called customer services to arrange a free replacement—another benefit of the scheme. The person I spoke to was very helpful and said a replacement would be waiting for me in the store. But it’s a 28-mile round trip to my nearest store, I explained. Why couldn’t one be posted? It seems silly that a Lensmail service is unable to mail me a lens. If you ordered something online and needed a replacement, would a retailer only offer an in-store option? Of course not. That’s supposed to be the key benefit of “home shopping”.

It’s not a big deal, but it does seem inefficient—especially considering all the hype about “omnichannel”. Seems the concept still has some way to go before becoming reality. --MT

Dart’s data--from Facebook timeline to cart abandonment

In light of the news that Facebook timeline becomes mandatory today for all Facebook accounts, I’ve found some recent stats that focus on this area.  A study by social media marketing platform Vitrue found that 52 percent of brands saw a reduction in engagement rate when they made the shift to Facebook timeline.
However, through implementing best practices for brand pages, such as sharable content, better visuals and prioritising timeline milestones, 27 percent of brands saw an engagement rate increase of more than 20 percent. Some brands have seen as much as a 190 percent lift in engagement rate per fan.

Another report that crossed my desk in recent days is research conducted by the International Fraud Prevention Research Centre for Experian, which estimates that £1.02 billion worth of online shopping transactions were abandoned last year by UK consumers frustrated by old and inefficient identity measures. One in five of these abandoned transactions were not taken elsewhere as individuals cancelled their shopping attempt altogether, resulting in £214 million worth of net lost revenue for UK retailers. The study also revealed that 44 percent of UK shoppers have abandoned at least one online shopping transaction in the last year after becoming frustrated with the length and complexity of older forms of identity verification.--JD

Send your report, study or whitepaper to

ECMOD Direct Commerce Award Winners

The ECMOD Awards are delighted to announce that the following companies have won a prestigious ECMOD Award for work carried out during 2011.

Held at a glittering ceremony at the Lancaster London Hotel on the evening of 27th March, these awards recognise business excellence for organisations engaged in direct-to-customer retailing across traditional and emerging channels.

With categories designed for those targeting sales to businesses as well as for those selling to consumers, these awards also seek to celebrate the achievements of businesses of all scales and at all stages of development.

The winners are

Best All Round Business or Brand – Annual Sales from £0 - £5M, Business to Business: ESE Direct
Best All Round Business or Brand – Annual Sales from £0-£5M, Business to Consumer: MattressesWorld
Best All Round Business or Brand – Annual Sales from £5M-£10M, Business to Business: International Dance Supplies
Best All Round Business or Brand – Annual Sales from £5M-£10M, Business to Consumer: Railbookers
Best All Round Business or Brand – Annual Sales from £10M-£25M, Business to Business: Ironmongery Direct
Best All Round Business or Brand – Annual Sales from £10M-£25M, Business to Consumer: Artigiano
Children’s Sector: Great Little Trading Company
Fashion Apparel for Women: Artigiano
Fashion Apparel for Men: Oliver Sweeney
Gardening & Homewares:  Thompson & Morgan
Gifts: Handpicked Collection
• Education & Teaching: TTS Group
• Industrial Equipment & Supplies: ESE Direct
Niche Trade & Professional Supplies: Lyco Direct
Catering, Hotel & Facilities Supplies: Lyco Direct
Warehouse & Materials Handling Supplies: Rapid Racking
Best New Market and/or New Brand Launch – Enterprise Level: Argos TV
Best New Market and/or New Brand Launch – SME: Bodie and Fou
Best Catalogue Refresh – Business to Business: Morleys of Bicester
Best Catalogue Refresh – Business to Consumer: RUCraft
Best Mobile Commerce Performance:
Best Website Redesign: Macmillan Cancer Support
Best Online Business – Business to Business: Farnell Element14
Best Online Business – Business to Consumer: Mobile Fun
Best International Performance: Charles Tyrwhitt (Direct Commerce
Readers’ Choice Award)
Outstanding CRM & Customer Service: Dolls House Emporium
• Congratulations also to Angus Thirlwell and Peter Harris of Hotel Chocolat, who received a Lifetime Achievement Award for their contribution to multichannel retailing.

Wednesday, 21 March 2012

Dart's data--the online issue

Last week we looked at recent stats from the ecommerce sector. This week we continue the ecommerce theme and examine the latest online shopping trends as well as some interesting facts about customer reviews.

• The WorldPay eCommerce Basket survey shows that UK online shoppers spent more than £3,370 on ecommerce websites in the last year. Forty percent of shoppers bought online at least four times a month and nearly 60 percent shopped up to three times a month, with 10 percent saying that in an average month they purchased products online 10 or more times. The survey, which polled 2,000 online shoppers in the UK, found that shoes were the most popular fashion and clothing item to be bought online. The most expensive fashion and clothing item bought were handbags, with women spending an average of £187 per order.

The WorldPay study also highlights that men are more prolific online shoppers, spending an average of £3,495 a year compared to women who spent £3,120 a year. Men spent £145 more a year on electronics, £150 more on lifestyle and entertainment products and £235 more on travel. Conversely, women spent more on fashion and clothing with an average of £315 compared to £188 by men.

• A recent study by Feefo, the online feedback forum, revealed that women are the fairer sex when it comes to online reviews with women providing more constructive criticism, but men being twice as likely to write a review. In the research, which collected more than four million responses for the likes of The White Company, Crew Clothing and Not On The High Street, also shows that women are twice as likely to spend time writing reviews at work, with men preferring to use a home computer. The survey also shows that young men in the 18-34 age bracket and men aged 55 and older were the most common reviewers, while women aged between 35 and 54 were the most likely to be engaged in a review.--JD

If you have a report, study or whitepaper send it to

Monday, 19 March 2012

Shortlist unveiled for the ECMOD Direct Commerce Awards

Following a rigorous judging process, the following companies have been shortlisted for an ECMOD Award. Recognising business excellence among cataloguers and multichannel marketers, the following list includes shortlisted named for all categories, including the Direct Commerce Readers’ Award.
  • Amazon
  • ARAM
  • Argos TV
  • Artigiano
  • Asos
  • Aspace
  • Beauty Express
  • Boden
  • Bodie & Fou
  • Charles Tyrwhitt
  • Cos
  • Dolls House Emporium
  • ESE Direct
  • Farnell
  • Great Little Trading Company
  • Handpicked Collection
  • Hotel Chocolat
  • Integra Office Supplies
  • International Dance Supplies
  • Ironmongery Direct
  • Laura Ashley
  • Letterbox
  • Lush
  • Lyco Direct
  • MacMillan Cancer Support
  • Mobile Fun
  • Morleys of Bicester
  • Oliver Sweeney
  • Railbookers
  • Rapid Racking
  • RS Components
  • RU Craft
  • Shop Direct
  • Thompson & Morgan
  • TTS Group
  • WorldStores
The final winners for each category will be revealed on the evening of 27th March 2012 at the ECMOD Direct Commerce Awards gala evening at the Lancaster London hotel.

A representative from each shortlisted business will receive a VIP ticket for the black-tie evening event. Additional tickets may be purchased subject to availability from the ECMOD offices. Tickets are priced at £165 each + VAT and include welcome drink reception, three-course dinner and wine, plus the ECMOD Awards ceremony, charity casino and prize draw and dancing.

For more details, visit or call 01271 866112.

Mother’s Day emails we love

The other day I happened across the Xbox Live dashboard and noticed its Mother’s Day gift ideas. For the uninitiated, Xbox Live is the Microsoft console’s online service. It is accessible via the console itself or through the website. The service enables subscribers to access and download demos of the latest games, rent or buy HD movies, and interact with the various apps Microsoft has partnered with.

Curious to find out what Xbox recommends we buy mum this Sunday, I found its selection rather uninspired—dominated by cheesy romcoms and casual puzzle games. Clearly, Xbox doesn’t think mums would enjoy a spot of Modern Warfare.

It’s easy to fall into the stereotyping trap at Mother’s Day, so here are a few offers from retailers that thought a little out of the box this year, and made my list of favourite emails.

1. Astley Clarke
Subject line: 12 ways to get Mother's Day right plus Free Delivery
Why we love it: Have you ever bought your mum—or wife—something practical and really regretted it? We’ve all been there. New jewellery trumps a kitchen gadget every time and online jeweller Astley Clarke has done well to capitalise on this. The subject line is attention-grabbing and “plus free delivery” is always a winner. I also like the personal touch. When I clicked through from the email I discovered that the 12 items were handpicked by founder Bec Astley Clarke, who just had her second child and is in “full Mother’s Day swing this year”. Bec Astley Clarke has also, rather helpfully, picked items to suit all budgets, from a sterling silver small locket at £85 to the 18-carat yellow gold amethyst ring for £895.

Astley Clarke

2. Firebox
Subject line: Thanks Mum
Why we love it: Firebox just seems to get me. References to Terminator and Alien, Yes! A pen valued at €1,000,000. WANT! Oh wait, I’m shopping for mum… The Firebox email has topped many of my “favourites” lists for having its finger on the pulse. This Mother’s Day email is no exception. While I’m not that keen on all of the gifts—a campervan birdhouse, pink gin and a “social-media shower curtain”, you can’t help but smile at a photo of a bear sitting at a picnic table. Or for that matter, be won over by Firebox’s jovial copy.


3. Frugi
Subject line: Get something lovely this Mother's day! Free postage, free card and gift wrap!
Why we love it: I am a big fan of wish lists; primarily because I hate surprises. This is why I love Frugi’s email detailing a step-by-step process of actually getting what you want with tips on how to fill in a wish list and how to get it noticed by your loved ones. Not only that but Frugi will also deliver the parcel gift-wrapped and with free shipping—and include a card too. My only criticism is that the wish list is limited to Frugi’s breast-feeding wear. Perhaps, if successful, Frugi will repeat the offer and extend it to other lines. -- MT



Monday, 12 March 2012

This month's must reads: March

The March issue has landed on desks; don't subscribe? Here's a taste of what you're missing:

Carrier Review
Choosing a postal and parcel carrier that best suits your needs is an ever more vital decision if your business is to avoid a delivery disaster. So to make the decision that much easier for you, we’ve assembled the responses of 22 delivery specialists that filled in our questionnaire to bring you a profile of each carrier and a chart comparing the services it offers.

Always Connected, any device
Shop Direct Group’s Jonathan Wall takes us through the company’s mobile strategy and how it is keeping up with the mobile revolution.

Plus Q & With…Vanessa Knox, a review of the ModelZone website, interview with Beachbody's UK managing director Thomas Parrott and much, much more...


As a subscriber to Direct Commerce you get all this included in your annual subscription:

  • 11 issues of Direct Commerce
  • All our bonus supplements
  • Exclusive access to subscriber-only content on
  • Month after month of strategic tactical guidance on operate in the direct commerce sector
All this for just £65 a year for UK subscribers. Or you can choose the online-only option for just £45, worldwide. Click here to subscribe today!

Wednesday, 7 March 2012

February Catalogue Log

After January’s slump of just 62, it was a relief to receive a more respectable 94 catalogues in February. Nevertheless, that’s still 10 percent less than we received last February when we logged 104 catalogues.

A quick glance at the data shows that this year we didn’t receive any catalogues from Staples, Joseph Turner or Toast. We did, however, receive a catalogue from SofaSofa, Pepperberry and Emma Bridgewater. We also tracked several mailers sending us different editions. Crew Clothing, for example, sent us two versions of its Spring 2012 book, plus its new Junior Crew kidswear catalogue. The two Spring catalogues were identical in almost every way. Same front and back covers, same number of pages, but one featured New Collection Offer 20% OFF PLUS FREE RETURNS, while the other went one better with Introductory Offer 20% OFF PLUS FREE DELIVERY & RETURNS. The catalogues were addressed to different Catalogue Log researchers, one of whom had not previously shopped with Crew and one who thought she had, but wasn’t sure. Curiously, the researcher who thought she was a Crew customer received the “Introductory Offer”.

Two versions of Spring 2012 from Crew

Boden did a similar thing. It also mailed two versions of its Spring 2012 edition. Same front cover and same special offer (15 percent off plus free delivery and free returns), but one was 244 pages and the other just 196--no menswear. In addition we also received a Mini Boden kidswear cataloguer and noted an insert in the Sunday Times with the bumper offer of 15 percent, free delivery, free returns and a free gift for new customers.

We also tracked several catalogues from Charles Tyrwhitt, including ones with special offers for customers of Lands’ End and readers of the Sunday Times.  Overall, catalogue covers in February were slightly more promotional than in January—more than half (56.4 percent) featured some sort of special offer on the cover, compared with January’s 52.5 percent. When comparing year-on-year, February 2012 was far less promotional. February 2011 was one of last year’s most promotionally led months and saw more than two-thirds (67.3 percent) of covers feature a special deal.

February's Offers Chart

In February 2011, 49 percent of all the catalogues we received promoted a sale or discount on the cover. This year, that percentage fell to 45.8, or 43 catalogues. Among the marketers offering a discount were childrenswear brand Frugi, homewares catalogue Peacock Blue and b-to-b merchant 4imprint.

Free gifts really fell out of favour in February. We counted only five catalogues, or 5.3 percent, offering a freebie with customer orders: Boden, Rajapack, RU Craft, Thompson & Morgan and catering equipment marketer Blue U. This represents the lowest percentage since we began compiling the Catalogue Log; previously, the lowest figure was October 2011 (6 percent). 

Much more popular last month was free delivery. Nearly a quarter of all catalogues (23.4 percent) featured a free p&p offer on the cover, including Wrap, Peter Hahn and Traidcraft. Once again, especially with fashion catalogues, free delivery was often teamed up with free returns.

Although we don’t officially track how many address labels, carrier sheets or inserts feature a special deal, we are seeing more special offers kept off the front cover. Gifts catalogue Culture Vulture, for example, took 10 percent off if we placed an order of more than £50, The White Company included an insert for 15 percent off plus free UK delivery, while the back cover of a Viking catalogue promised us a George Forman grill.

Speaking of Viking, it was the only marketer to send us a Valentine’s card this year. The card was passed around the whole office and raised a smile with everyone. We’d like to see more b-to-b marketers take Viking’s lead with event-triggered marketing—it’s surely a step in the right direction when looking to foster customer loyalty and encourage customers to continue coming back.--MT

Valentine's card from Viking

Friday, 2 March 2012

Dart’s data--the multichannel shopper

New technologies are increasingly important for the multichannel consumers. In a report by Shoppercentric, 87 percent of shoppers said they used bricks and mortar shops as part of their purchase journey, with 23 percent of shoppers using catalogues, 13 percent using smartphones, 7 percent tablets and two percent shopping through internet TV in the past month (January/February). The Shopping in a Multichannel World study also discovered that nine percent of respondents have used a retailer app, with 5 percent using a brand app, while seven percent used social media during a purchase journey.

Stores are the most trusted channel for getting expert advice (68 percent), followed by brand websites (52 percent). While brand websites (40 percent) and comparison websites (39 percent) scored the most for providing trustworthy information, with the least trusted route being social media (17 percent). Social media’s strength is in finding exclusive deals, with half of respondents citing social media as the best sources.

The Shoppercentric report, which sought to uncover what consumers really use to browse, research, consider or purchase from, and whether any age or gender distinctions might exist found that 34 to 45-year-olds are the keenest online shoppers, with 55 percent saying they preferred shopping online to visiting shops.--JD