The Coming Mobile Tsunami

Let’s get this out of the way right at the start – I don’t like the word tsunami. In my day, it was a “tidal wave”.  And that is the start of our problem – some marketers just can’t accept change.

If you have been a reader of this blog for a while, you know I have never given an endorsement to a 3rd party, except for the speakers I’ve had at our annual catalog seminar, including Amy Africa, Kevin Hillstrom and Frank Oliver. I also don’t believe in citing research published by 3rd parties, especially the DMA and the Postal Service, whose data, in my opinion, is always suspect.

I’ve been asked many times by other vendors to give their product or service a plug, but that is not the purpose of this blog. I want you to think about growing your business – I don’t want to always be giving you a sales pitch, not for Datamann, and especially not for some other company.

However, I’m making an exception today. Carole Ziter, from Trigger Email Marketing, sent me some original research that I want to share. I’m doing this for three reasons:

  • I’ve known Carole since 1991, when we began serving together on the Board of the VT/NH Direct Marketing Group. Last fall, I had the honor of presenting Carole with that Group’s Lifetime Achievement Award.
  • Carole and her husband Tom have helped me a number of times in my career with answers to direct marketing problems, which is what her research is about today.
  • Carole is a direct marketer at heart, owning her own catalog for many years, and now co-owning an internet service company. She is always thinking about driving response.

That bears repeating. For the almost 30 years I’ve known Carole, she is one of the most passionate people I know with regards to a love for direct marketing and getting someone to respond to an offer. With Carole, it’s not about a catalog or an email – it’s about getting a customer to respond.

Carole sees what’s coming and from her perspective, it’s a Mobile Tsunami. Unless you are one of those rare catalogs whose consumers are over 75, your customers are going to continue migrating to their phone to shop from you. If your target audience is 35, you already know this.

This spring, Carole’s company tracked 500 major catalog and ecommerce companies on one thing – did they have cross-device shopping carts, meaning if I put something into my cart while on my laptop, will it show up in the cart when I access the cart on my phone?

Below are the results of that research:

  • Of the companies tracked, 44% did not send a single email within their 3-week test period;
  • 60% had no abandoned cart recovery program – many of them well-established brands;
  • Of the companies with abandoned cart recovery programs, 39% sent a single autoresponder and 22% sent just 2 reminders, and 54% do not rebuild their carts across all devices.

Carole then took this a step further, and analyzed the cross-device shopping cart abilities of sixty of the companies that attended the Datamann catalog seminar in March. This was her process: Email subscriptions were completed via desktop when possible; a single item was placed in a shopping cart and abandoned via desktop; abandoned cart emails received were opened via phone; Return to Cart buttons were clicked via a phone to verify the presence of a cross-device feature.

Of the 60 companies Carole reviewed, only 29 (48%) had abandoned cart recovery programs. Of those 29, only 11 companies (18% of the total) had some form of a cross-device cart saver program.

One of the reasons I don’t write about these types of programs is that I feel that 90% are common-sense things that you should be aware of and should already be doing. Amy Africa was speaking about the need for abandoned cart email programs more than 10 years ago. Of course, Amy’s ideal was to start emailing consumers within 3 seconds of their leaving your site, but still, the concept has been around for a while, and has been proven to work. Plus, it’s not like the competition is getting any easier and that your response rates could not use a boost. So, it always comes as a bit of shock to see that companies are not doing some of the basics.

(Part of Carole’s research also tracked basic check-out procedures, and I was further shocked at the number of companies that still don’t have a Guest checkout. Why don’t you just tell customers right up front to go to Amazon?)

On the other hand, what is considered a “basic marketing technique” to one mailer is an extra hurdle to other mailers. There are literally hundreds of additional programs, services, products and methods that you are constantly being sold, and of which you are told that failure to implement each one will spell instant doom for your company.  Plus, there are ten different versions of each of these services from different vendors. You don’t have the time, staff or resources to do all of these things that you are told you should. You have scarce resources which you are struggling to manage.

But, as you get ready to go into this fall/holiday season, having a shopping cart that can be viewed across multiple devices seems to me to be one of those standard customer expectations similar to an 800# twenty years ago. You can’t compete with Amazon on many levels. But one thing which Amazon has perfected is convenience and speed. They don’t have a beautiful design, nor many digital bells and whistles. It is all about being efficient in getting your order. Keep that principle in mind as you think about your website this year. Get with it. (And if you want help, contact Carole by going to the Trigger Email Marketing website).

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by Bill LaPierre

VP – Business Intelligence and Analytics

Datamann – 800-451-4263 x235

blapierre@datamann.com

 

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Mid-Summer 2017 Catalog Observations

It’s the end of July, and you’ve almost finished paginating your Holiday catalog. It’s not going to mail for another two, maybe three months, and there are not many changes you can make to it now.

That’s ok, because it isn’t your catalog which you should be changing. It’s your website that you need to work on.

Beyond The Upsell:

When I worked at Brookstone in the 1990s, we spent a lot of time coming up with just the right products for our “telephone upsell” list. You have to remember, this was before the internet, when 50% of our orders came in over the phone. At the end of the order, the CSR would ask the customer if they wanted to hear our list of daily specials, which always included a quart of maple syrup. We argued endlessly over what was the best way to spiff the CSRs for the upsell effort. We argued whether the “specials” should be good products, or overstocks we were trying to get rid of.

Most of you have adopted a variation of upsells on your website with features such as “Customers who bought this product, also liked these products….”

There is nothing special in the list below from FineArtAmerica.com. They take the basic product I was searching for (a poster of Napoleon Crossing the Alps), and show it to me in a variety of options such as a canvas painting, acrylic print, etc. In 2017, you expect different options like this for a poster/print/photo.

But further down, you can see they offer this image of Napoleon as a shower curtain, pillow, phone case, coffee mug.

Lots of you with gift catalogs spend an inordinate amount of time finding/developing new products with witty sayings, or cute images, like a smiling cat, or a mug that says “You Are An Amazing Woman”. But you squander the opportunity to really drive sales for that product because you think only in terms of ONE option for that product.

I hear many of you that sell products which are “nice to have” complain that you depend on consumers looking through your catalog to “discover” all the great new products you have. The future of catalog/ecommerce is going to belong to the companies who can capitalize on taking a great product, and turning it into 100 different options. Consumers will shop the sites where they know they have the most options. That’s why I love Cafe Press – contrary to what catalogers tell me – that “no one browses a gift website!”, I do browse their site (where else can you get a “Nixon in 2020” t-shirt?).

If you are a gift cataloger, stop thinking so one-dimensionally about your products, and think about how you can turn that great new t-shirt with the Walt Whitman quote into a phone case too.

Not In 100 Years:

Is this good catalog upselling, or foolishness? I spotted the item below in the Garrett Wade catalog, and then checked it out on the website. It’s a standard kerosene lantern. I have similar lanterns that have been in my family for more than 100 years, and which I have used repeatedly every summer for the past 50+ years. In all that time, I have never had to replace a wick.  But, Garrett Wade offers 10 replacement wicks for $5.95. Unless you were living in a bunker, and needed to use this lantern pretty much 24 hours a day, I can’t see why you would ever need so many replacement wicks.

Was this just great upselling on the part of the merchant? ($5.95 for 10 wicks is actually a good deal). Was the merchant hoping that the average person buying a kerosene lamp would not know that they didn’t need that many wicks? Or did the buyer himself not know that?

I’m not going to give Garrett Wade too much grief on this, as they do something that most of you don’t do, which is an absolute missed opportunity for you. Right below the offer for the lamps above, they have a link to a video on how to use the lamp. (Ok, maybe if you don’t know how to use a kerosene lamp, you might think you do need 10 replacement wicks).

The video is 1 minute long, I can tell it was not “professionally” produced, but it shows the product in use, and is actually pretty good! It sits right on the Garrett Wade website, so doesn’t send me off to YouTube to watch. Why aren’t the rest of you producing similar videos to showcase your products? Think about how much time people watch videos on their phones – video enhances the sale. You are too concerned about “getting it right”, or that fact that it will look “homemade”. So what? It helps sell.

My only concern with this particular video is that it fails to do any selling – while the guy is filling the tank, he could be telling the viewer how well built it is, that it won’t rust, it will last 100 years, etc.  Consumers still need to be sold. Don’t squander the opportunity. Always Be Selling!

As My Mother Would Have Said – “What Gall!”

I love my local daily newspaper (The Keene NH Sentinel). But over the 30 years I have been a subscriber, the paper has announced a number of “editorial” changes, which you could tell were only meant to keep the presses rolling. A few years ago, they announced they would no longer devote as much space to national and international news. Then sports reporting was cut back, and of course like all newspapers, there are no longer any classified ads in the back.

The kicker came this week via a letter they sent to all subscribers announcing a price increase coming this fall. The best part was this statement: “Due to the size of our premium Thanksgiving edition, there will be a $1 surcharge for this Premium Edition”.

This “Premium” Thanksgiving issue, which actually comes out the day before because the paper does not print on Thanksgiving, is all ads and FSIs. Sure, there are a few extra articles on alternate ways to cook a turkey, or the joys of a vegan Thanksgiving, but beyond that, it is all ads. So, for the pleasure of getting a ton of print ads for which the newspaper is already being paid, my newspaper is now going to charge me $1 extra. What gall!

But, hold on! Can that concept be applied to your catalog? Most catalogs have always had a vendor co-op program where you charge vendors a token amount for appearing in the catalog. What if you took that concept further and charged the vendor the full cost of appearing in the catalog? What if you paid for the entire catalog this way? I know many of you are thinking “Bill has no idea how hard this would be”, or “that won’t work for apparel catalogs”.

Don’t think in terms of 64 pages. Think in terms of 8 pages. What if you got an eight-page catalog completely paid for by a vendor(s)? You could prospect pretty deep if the marketing cost was $0. And, think about this – just as you are getting hammered by Amazon, many of your vendors are feeling the pain of all the retail store closings. They are looking for new markets, and may very well be receptive to helping you, if you grant them exclusivity, or if you agree to promote a new line which they are testing.

Oh, I know – you can’t do this because it would interrupt the flow of catalogs you already have, and potentially cannibalize sales from your Holiday 2 drop. Stop thinking that way. Think in terms of using a vendor-paid-for mail piece as a way to drive consumers to your website. The more baited hooks you have in the water, the more you will catch.

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by Bill LaPierre

VP – Business Intelligence and Analytics

Datamann – 800-451-4263 x235

blapierre@datamann.com

 

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Overton’s 301 and a Way of Discovery

Yesterday, NASCAR held their annual July race at the New Hampshire Motor Speedway. It was the Overton’s 301, with boating cataloger/retailer Overton’s acting as the race sponsor.

Yes, NASCAR does venture into New England twice a year – there are a few stock car race fans north of the Mason-Dixon Line. If you hadn’t noticed, there are only a few drivers left that hail from the South, which is a huge change from when I was a kid. Back then, all the drivers sounded like Richard Petty.

Is this a good match for Overton’s? Well, the race takes place in New Hampshire’s “Lakes Region”, and the big lakes in Maine, Vermont and the ocean are only an hour or two away. So, they are in the right place, during the right season, with the right audience. And they are following the lead of Bass Pro Shops and Camping World, two other retailers/catalogers that have sponsored NASCAR races for years.

Was Overton’s taking catalog requests at the race track? Probably not. At an event like this, which is New Hampshire’s largest public event of the year, you are going for name and product exposure only, if you are the sponsor.

Let’s look at this sponsorship from a different perspective. This past week, Amazon held their annual Prime Day, and raked in billions of dollars in sales. Tough to compete with that if you are a single title catalog. But can you at least grab some attention? No one left yesterday’s NASCAR race without knowing that Overton’s had something to do with boats. They grabbed some attention, and built some brand awareness. Time will tell if it was worth it for Overton’s.

Early next month, during the annual motorcycle rally in Sturgis, SD, cataloger J&P Cycles will be one of the major sponsors of the event. Another example of a cataloger going beyond their traditional method of mailing “co-op segments” to grow.

So, how do you, as a single title catalog, grab some attention? You need some help from your friends. Think about how this industry grew years ago, back before the co-op catalog databases. You exchanged customer lists with your closest competitors, and lots of other mailers. Some of those other companies were “friends”, and others were “competitive enemies”, but you still exchanged with them because that was how you grew. There was cooperation on a giant scale.

Years ago, when I worked at Brookstone, and was a Board member of the VT/NH Direct Marketing Group, I coordinated a giant cooperative package insert program for catalogs within the group who were located within the two states. It was called “Get A Taste of Northern New England”, and featured a profile of about 20 catalogs, with the address where you could write to request a catalog (this was in the Dark Ages before the internet). Each participating company inserted these “brochures” into outbound packages, giving exposure to the other participants. As the largest participant in the program, Brookstone ended up distributing more than 50% of the pieces, but we looked upon this as our civic duty (partly because we still felt guilty about moving our catalog distribution center out of New Hampshire to Missouri!)

In today’s world, you do not want to generate catalog requests. You want to get consumers to remember that there are still catalogs in business, and for those consumers to visit your website immediately. How do you do that?

Here’s an idea. What if the catalog “industry” arbitrarily called November 1st National Catalog Day? A cataloger in each state could host their respective governor in the call center, maybe even let the Gov pick/pack and ship an order. Great photo ops. Would it grab some attention? Yes. As much attention as Amazon Prime Day? No.

But are you just going to sit back and let your catalog wither? Wouldn’t you rather seek some help from your friends?

Since the DMA’s Catalog Conference disappeared, there is no place for catalogers to meet on a grand scale. There is little personal interaction with your peers at other companies, because you don’t even know who they are. Who are your friends? Mostly vendors. Let’s just pick a few big companies like LSC, Quad, Dingley, Abacus, Oracle, Wiland, and UPS, all of whom depend upon the growth – nay, the survival – of the catalog industry. They are friends to all of you. Collectively, they must work with every B2B and B2C catalog in the US, and in many cases, catalogs beyond our borders as well.

What if they got together and sponsored a few TV ads during the NFL games on the Sunday before November 1 promoting National Catalog Day? Or blanketed YouTube with ads during the last week of October promoting National Catalog Day. Every time someone viewed a Beach Boys video or Annette Funicello video (those would be the right demographics), they’d be targeted with the catalog ad. The ad could provide a link (ooh, better yet, maybe an app!) that brought consumers to a listing of every catalog that wanted to participate – free of charge.

As an industry, catalogs need a way of discovery for consumers. You need to provide consumers with a way to collectively find you, because if you are a single title cataloger, it is getting more and more difficult to survive without the help of your friends.

I, of course, like to think that Datamann is your friend, even if you are not one of our clients. We supply you with this blog on catalog trends – free of charge. We sponsor our catalog seminar for the VT/NH Marketing Group every March that is open to all catalogers. Datamann wants to see the catalog industry survive and grow. But it is time for more cooperative efforts with your friends, because you can’t do it alone.

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by Bill LaPierre

VP – Business Intelligence and Analytics

Datamann – 800-451-4263 x235

blapierre@datamann.com

 

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