You May Not Want to Give Up Those Old Marketing Ways Too Quicklyby J.W. Abraham on 02/05/15
Just the other week, J.C. Penney's announced it was bringing back its home catalog. See "J.C. Penney to bring back a home catalog: WSJ"
They said it would boost their online sales.
They said they found that a lot of people who receive catalogs turn to the internet to make a purchase.
Such behavior may have been a big surprise to many marketers.
But, not to me.
For years I have worked with multichannel merchants who issued catalogs while also operating an ecommerce store.
And everyone on our marketing team was very aware that the catalog nearly always provided a boost to online sales.
Many times in reviewing online sales results whenever we would see a spike in sales we would ask ourselves whether we had a catalog drop around that time. And, many times we found that we had.
So, I am really surprised that J.C. Penney's didn't know the power a catalog could have on online sales. After all, I often get a catalog and if something catches my eye I then go to the internet to research it some more and if it fits my needs I order it online. And many of you may do the same.
Catalogs can be a great way to gets back on a customer's radar screen for those times when they are not online.
Also, catalogs can often present products differently and sometimes better than your computer screen can. Catalog can inspire readers with their rich color, full-bleed photographs. The text in a catalog is often easier on the eyes and easier to read too.
Now, for sure, the hey-day of catalogs is in the past. So, that means most companies shouldn't go producing humongous catalogs as companies used to do. In fact, J.C. Penney's said it would be producing a 120 page book, not the heavy-duty catalogs they were known for.
There are several strategies in using small catalogs. I have helped produce smaller catalogs that showcased the variety of products a company offers, or their bestsellers, or just their new products.
You see, their role was not to duplicate their ecommerce sight. It was to complement it. To provide a spark. To get people to go their site.
So, for some marketers there is still a role for them.
What's more, this lesson about catalogs goes to show that marketers may not want to give up on so-called old marketing channels too quickly.
Here, I give you two more avenues you may want to rethink using.
Catalogs may not be the only thing you should send through the mail.
You may also want to send postcards, flyers, sales letters or some other direct mail piece.
Now, like catalogs, direct mail is not as popular as it once was. Sales people and marketers have for several years embraced email. And, no wonder. It is cheaper and faster.
But, the decline of direct mail can also be its power.
With less to compete with in people's mailboxes, your piece may stand out more. It may gain more attention. Especially in comparison to email where your message has to do battle with a lot more messages.
Here is an interesting study that shows direct mail still has some punch. Completed by the Direct Marketing Association in 2012 this study showed direct mail had a much bigger response rate versus email. Their numbers showed a direct mail response rate to existing customers of over 3.4% while email brought in a tiny 0.12%. See "Back to the Basics: Why Direct Mail Is Not Dead".
And, here are some more things to think about.
Many elders don't have internet. So, to reach them directly email is not even an option.
And, how about this. Another study surprisingly said that even the young prefer to direct mail to the internet. See "Direct Mail: Alive and Kicking". This was reported three years ago, so I wonder if this is true today. But, the fact that such a study found this result even then is pretty amazing.
Finally, here is one of my own theories.
I don't have any big study to back me up here. But, I wonder if the fact that direct mail is tangible and costs more to produce gives the marketer a little more credibility. The fact that they went through the effort to produce such a direct mail piece may send a different message than an email. So, I wonder if direct mail could be particularly helpful for high-end or products that need to develop a lot of trust with their customers.
Of course, there is nothing more tangible in marketing than marketing with the actual physical goods.
But today the trend seems more about having a business model with direct delivery to customers' homes.
At the holiday time it seemed much of the media attention was on whether Fed Ex and UPS would get all of their packages delivered on time.
And, I am always seemingly reading about a new ecommerce business. And that is understandable, as I would imagine setting up an ecommerce site is often less expensive than a physical store with all its overhead. Just design a website. Put your inventory in the garage. And you're started.
But you know, a retail store still can be powerful.
And as a result, you may be losing out on some customers by not having a retail store.
One reason is that a lot of people may not buy your product unless they can feel it, test drive it or try it on. I remember telling a couple of people that I bought my shoes online. I have a hard to find size. They’re response was that they could never see themselves ordering shoes online. I am sure there are many more customers just like them.
Then there is the social aspect. Many people want to go shopping with their family and friends. They want to have an experience somewhere. They want to get out of the house. It is not quite the same as gathering around your computer clicking a mouse.
So Consider Complementing Your Marketing with Those Old Ways
I certainly don't mean for these to be an either/or decision. I am suggesting you at least consider these old ways of marketing as a complement to your ecommerce site, email, and social channels. Think about whether you might gain more sales through opening a retail store, using direct mail or sending out a catalog like J.C. Penney's is doing.
Consider all the different ways you may be able to reach new customers and all the different ways they like to shop.
Then test those ways. See if they help to bring some more sales. See if it is worth the extra cost.
You may find the old ways just may bring in more new customers than you thought.