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.