Tuesday, 14 August 2012

ECMOD Supplier of the Year Awards

If someone has made your life a little easier this year then wouldn’t it be nice to show your appreciation and say thank you?

Did your direct mail campaign go without a hitch because of the faultless service you received from your mailing house? Were your customers kept happy with deliveries that turned up on time? Did the redesign of your website result in increased visitors and an up-turn in orders? Did the new format of your printed catalogue hit the right note with your existing customers?

We’ve all had campaigns where the help and assistance of our suppliers has proved invaluable. Now here is your chance to say thank you, and in the process they could pick up a coveted ECMOD Supplier of the Year award. Any company will know the value of being able to refer to their business as “award winning”; it inspires confidence and demands respect. Let your supplier know how much you value their input by putting them forward for an ECMOD Supplier of the Year Award today.

Nominating your chosen supplier is free of charge, there are no lengthy forms or complicated judging procedures. Just tell us who your supplier is and why, in your opinion, they deserve to win an award. There are eleven categories to choose from and you can nominate a supplier for each category is you wish.

Supplier companies are also free to circulate the form to their client base. All entries must be received by 6pm on Friday, 15th October 2012.

The ECMOD Supplier of the Year Awards Presentation will be held on Tuesday, 27th November at the Business Design Centre in Islington as part of the ECMOD Direct Commerce Show.

Click here to access the official ECMOD Supplier of the Year nomination form.

Monday, 13 August 2012

This month’s must reads

The August issue of Direct Commerce is out now. If you’re a subscriber, here's what you can expect:
* Special focus on multichannel and how retailers can work to close the multichannel divide.
* Herschell Gordon Lewis returns with his irreverent style as he discusses making a monumental discovery in your copywriting.
* Strictly business—how business-to-business firms can make use of DRTV, a predominantly b-to-c tactic
* Plus the latest news, a website review, Q&A with…, and much more.

If you don’t subscribe, you can
view a taster edition of the latest issue; but remember, the only way to read the magazine from cover to cover is to subscribe. A one-year subscription also gives you full access to the www.catalog-biz.com website and an archive of past issues.

To have the print edition of Direct Commerce magazine delivered to you, or for more information, contact us on 01271 866112 or subs@catalog-biz.com.

Dart’s data: the m-commerce issue

Mounting evidence suggests that more and more of us are shopping online using our mobile phone and yet it is estimated that two-fifths of UK businesses are failing to collect any mobile data.

According to a study by ecommerce agency Screen Pages mobile devices now account for 20.8 percent of all traffic, more than doubling from 10.3 percent in the past nine months. The research, all based on traffic to websites on the Magento ecommerce platform that have not been optimised for mobile devices, also found that 84.5 percent of all mobile visits are from Apple devices and that iPad usage has increased to 54.9 percent from 46.4 percent. The study also found that iPad shoppers buy more, with an average conversion of 3 percent against 2.8 percent for the websites overall.

But despite this, UK businesses are in danger of missing out on the multibillion pound mobile commerce boom. A report by Experian revealed that at least 40 percent of UK businesses currently fail to collect any mobile data at all. Those that do, take a varied approach to ensuring its accuracy with only 27 percent regularly checking their mobile data--a number lagging well behind the US where more than a third of organisations validate their data regularly.

There’s an app for that…
If you’re embarking on your mobile journey, you’re probably considering whether your brand needs an app. Take heed. According to a report by Webcredible, a user experience agency, UK consumers use only four mobile apps regularly, of which journey planning, searching for locations, booking tickets or finding voucher deals are the most frequently used apps.

The study points out that 40 percent of respondents had used location-sensitive apps from their phones, while 90 percent used their phones to get quick, necessary shopping tasks done when they were commuting. None of the participants said they would make an expensive purchase, such as a laptop or car, on their phones, instead preferring to use a PC to view bigger images and none would engage in grocery shopping from their phones; citing the small screen making the process tedious and time-consuming.

Of the female participants, 90 percent had installed apps that had been recommended to them by friends or family with 100 percent saying they window shop from their phones, but would only rarely buy fashion items, preferring to make these purchases on a PC where they could appreciate details such as fabric and colour. However, 20 percent of respondents said they would buy something from their phones that they had previously seen in-store.

So before jumping on the bandwagon with an app or mobile site, spend time really considering what your customers want to see.--JD

Related articles:
•    Online shopping trends around the world
•    Dart’s data--the mobile issue
•    Half of European smartphone owners shop using their phone
•    Why you can’t afford to ignore smartphone users any longer

Tuesday, 7 August 2012

In pictures: Littlewoods through the ages

To celebrate its 80th birthday, mail order giant Littlewoods has recreated some of its most iconic catalogue covers from years gone by starring Coleen Rooney. Shot by British photographer Terry O’Neill, who has worked with icons including Audrey Hepburn, Elvis and The Beatles, the new images illustrate how Littlewoods has evolved since the first catalogues in the 1930s all the way to present day.

Founded by Sir John Moores in Liverpool, the first Littlewoods catalogue was published in May 1932 and comprised 163 pages showing hand-illustrated images offering such items as flat irons and nickel-plated gas irons, each costing ten shillings (50p). In 1936, the Littlewoods mail order business recorded sales of more than £4 million. Since then, the company has gone from strength to strength, with a host of big name stars from Jerry Hall to Joan Collins gracing the pages of Littlewoods catalogues over the years. Now one of the UK’s leading online department stores, on its 262nd catalogue and delivering more than 12 million parcels to customers every year, Littlewoods continues to play a key role in the lives of millions of families across the nation. Sales at its parent company Shop Direct Group hit £1.7 billion in 2012.

Coleen’s Littlewoods covers through the ages

1937: Right back to the formative years of Littlewoods in the 30s, when the cover image of the catalogue was still hand-illustrated, Coleen teams a curled blonde wig with a red skirt suit in this living room setting in Liverpool.

Original coverColeen's version

1947: Following the war, the late 40s become a real boom time for fashion in Britain. Wearing a fitted striped blue and white dress, Coleen captures the look of the time in this recreated 1947 catalogue cover. Fun fact: During World War II, thousands of men and women conducted their war service in the “Littlewoods Army”, which manufactured supplies at Littlewoods’ headquarters in Liverpool.

Original coverColeen's version

1955: From the decade that saw women’s fashion changed by stars such as Audrey Hepburn, this cover sees Coleen wearing a buttoned red coat with high black heels and standing in a Georgian house-lined street in 1955. Fun fact: Littlewoods sold out of TVs in 1952 due to the unexpected surge in demand for this new product.

Original coverColeen's version

1965: In an iconic era for female fashion, Coleen recreates this classic swinging Sixties look in a simple red woollen jumper and blonde bob wig. Fun fact: The popularity of the miniskirt peaked during the 60s as a result of celebrities like Twiggy embracing the trend, which saw it become Littlewoods’ best selling fashion item of the decade.

Original coverColeen's version

1971: In the most elaborate recreation of the shoot, Coleen dons a vintage white coat and brown suede high-heeled boots for this early 70s catalogue.

Original coverColeen's version

1982: Wearing a white snake t-shirt and sports shorts, Coleen effortlessly pulls off this 80s in this black and white shot. Fun fact: Fashion increased in popularity in the 70s and 80s at Littlewoods, with flares and shellsuits among the must-have clothing items of the times. 

Original coverColeen's version

1991: The girl power movement of the 90s saw a host of A-list stars model for Littlewoods. None more so than Hollywood actress Jane Seymour in this purple cocktail dress and dramatic big hair from 1991. Fun fact: Littlewoods continued to grow in the 1990s and, by 2001, the company had become the second largest home shopping retailer in the UK.

Original coverColeen's version

2004: This traditional portrait shot from the 2000s not only shows how styles have changed but also allowed Terry O’Neill to display his trademark style of shooting to perfection.

Original coverColeen's version

Friday, 3 August 2012

July Catalogue Log

An American friend of mine asked me recently whether I had noticed a decline in catalogue volume as mailers cut back or postponed mailings in the run up to the Olympics. Apparently it’s common practice in the US to do so during big sporting events. However, with the Catalogue Log tracking a 6 percent increase in catalogue volume July on July, it doesn’t appear to be the case in the UK.

In fact, looking through the selection of 68 catalogues we received, you wouldn’t know the Olympics were taking place, let alone being hosted in the UK. Some give the Games a cursory nod, such as health and safety products supplier Seton, which places a medal at the top right-hand corner of the catalogue’s front cover with the legend “Olympic Money Off Deals!” Retail supplies cataloguer Morplan takes a more practical angle, making its customers aware that extra charges may apply on large deliveries during the Games. Gracing the Samuel Windsor catalogue is double Olympic gold medallist James Cracknell, but aside from modelling the smart/casual attire, Cracknell’s achievements are not used as a specific selling point, nor are the Olympics mentioned again inside the catalogue.

James Cracknell models for Samuel Windsor

More of an effort is displayed by packing supplies cataloguer Rajapack, which gets into the spirit of the summer of sport with its RajaCup 2012 competition. For the July catalogue it opts for a suitably athletic cover, which currently leads the unofficial Direct Commerce medals table for best Games-related marketing.

Rajacup 2012

In the silver medal position is Long Tall Sally, whose catalogue arrived on 31st July. Page 74 features Anna Watkins and Katherine Granger of the London 2012 gold-winning women’s sculling squad—both of whom are 6-feet tall. The copy reads: “After months of training hard, our favourite athletes Katherine Grainger and Anna Watkins took some time off the water to get glam on our latest photoshoot. The girls swapped their lycra for LTS Row as they modelled the latest offerings from our exclusive leisurewear range.”

Olympic Gold Medalists in the LTS catalogue

Also on the podium in July is Crew Clothing, taking the bronze medal. I interviewed brand marketing director Sarah Baskcomb for our cover story in July, who described how Crew was actively taking part in the Olympics by sponsoring athletes, including rower Louisa Reeve and the Paralympic GB boccia squad. Although its summer sale catalogue doesn’t explicitly mention the Olympics, it dedicates several pages to the GBR range, flying the flag for all things British.

Record breaking
So if mailers were keeping the Olympics off their catalogue covers what were they pushing instead? It certainly wasn’t free gifts. The July Catalogue Log tracked just two covers, 2.9 percent, touting a freebie, setting a new record. Previously the lowest percentage was 5.3 percent, tallied in February 2012.

Keeping with tradition, sales and discounts were the most popular promotion, with 32 of the 68 catalogues—47 percent—featuring a special price on the cover. That said, the percentage tracked in July 2012 was considerably lower than the preceding month (56.8 percent) and July 2011, when 54.7 percent of catalogues promoted a sale on the cover.

July Offers Chart
The decline continued with July 2012 also seeing a downturn in the number catalogues offering free shipping—17.6 percent compared with 21.9 percent in July 2011. Among those offering free delivery were the relaunched Rowland’s Clothing catalogue, which set an order threshold of £150 in order to qualify for free p&p and White Stuff, whose high summer mailer generously promises 15 percent off and free delivery.

With all these declines, it didn’t come as a surprise that more than two-fifths of the catalogues we tracked featured no offer whatsoever. Last year August was appreciably less promotionally led than July, which leads me to wonder whether we’ll see the reverse happen this year. As well as the run-up to the Olympics, cataloguers had to contend with an extremely wet July, with dampened demand for summer clothing and seasonal goods. I’m going to predict that August’s haul of catalogues will feature a spike in promotional activity as direct sellers try to shift summer stock ahead of the arrival of the Autumn/Winter catalogues towards the end of the month.--MT