The cold weather appears to have done the trick, and gotten consumers back into the buying frame of mind. From what I am hearing from clients and mailers, orders and sales began to pick up starting around November 10. No one is reporting that sales are doing great, but they are back to close to plan.
What does that mean to you? If this year goes like several other recent November/ December timeframes, orders will take off the week of Thanksgiving, and will then do about 20% above plan the first week of December. This will have nothing to do with Black Friday, Cyber Monday or snow in Buffalo. It will simply be due to a truth of cataloging – Christmas comes but once a year, and the average consumer is still going to make Christmas happen. Based on past experience, when response is depressed in September and October, barring any unforeseen catastrophic events that would hurt response from November 15 to December 15 (like a blizzard, or stock market crash), response will bounce back late in November / early December, and catalogers will not have the inventory to respond. But I bet Amazon will.
Most of you will be reading this posting on Monday November 24, which I predict will be the peak day for consumer catalogs in your mail box for the year. When you get home tonight, see for yourself.
I Love This, But Only This
My wife receives the Acacia catalog all the time, but is not a title from which she would ever buy (not her style). However, I spotted this collection of Yoga Cookie cutters in the November catalog.
These are great! I love to bake cookies, and I’m always looking for new cookie cutters. I’ll never do yoga (sorry to all of Datamann’s clients that have yoga catalogs!) but I love these. Unfortunately, if I bought them, Acacia would probably send me their 64 page catalog for the next 4 years, probably 12 times/year, before they determined that I was only interested in the cookie cutters, not the rest of the apparel in the book (sample spread below).
This is where a merchandise analysis of the first product a customer purchased can reveal which customers are likely to never make a second purchase. It can help you to not only stop mailing to those customers, but to identify that type of product, and avoid putting them in the catalog to begin with.
A True Web Diver Catalog
Most of you know that I believe catalogs should do more to use their catalog to drive customers to the website. Mail fewer pages, make more contacts, and get more customers. It works for some, not for all.
I received this 12 page, slim-Jim catalog from ThinkGeek. None of the products in the catalog have prices. There is no phone number. You have to go to their website to learn the price and place an order. And there are hundreds of more products on-line. In my opinion, this is the perfect web driver catalog. Think about this the next time someone on your staff says “But our customers are different – they have to see it in the catalog”.
This Can’t Be a Good for “the Brand”?
If you are a loyal reader of this blog, you know my wife and I live in a little town in rural New Hampshire, a full hour away from the nearest mall. We do however have a small mass merchandise store in the town next door called “Ocean State Job Lot”. It is the kind of store that is lit with single rows of florescent lights about 30 feet apart, and features remainder merchandise and close-outs products from larger retailers. I noticed that their weekly newspaper flyer this week featured a full page ad for old Coldwater Creek merchandise. Ouch! – do you think this is what Dennis Pence envisioned in 2005 when Coldwater Creek famously announced that they no longer viewed themselves as a catalog company, but were an online company with stores?
Having their product sold at stores like Ocean State Job Lot is going to make it really hard for the team I heard of that is trying to resurrect the old Coldwater Creek title. Good luck trying to convince your target customer that you’ve got an upscale catalog brand.
Ce Ne Sont Pas Bonnes (This is not Good)
As I was writing this posting, I checked the weather on Weather.com, and was presented with the ad below, for the North Face store in Montreal. I assume it was served to me because my wife and I drove to Montreal this summer, and I searched for hotels/ restaurants in Quebec online. But that was in August – four months ago. Plus, I almost always search in English, not French.
This is important because many of you are paying big bucks this holiday season to have your display ads and retargeting ads plastered all over the web. The companies doing your targeting are reporting to you that all is going well and that they are hitting your target customer. But how relevant, how recent, and how close to you (geographically) are those targets? I don’t think this is an example of targeting gone bad – I think it is an example of some online ad suppliers stretching the allowable definition of who is their client’s target customer. This store is 250 miles from my home – but someone (or some algorithm) defined me as being a target for the store, and served me the ad, in the wrong language. Watch your own results – and try your best to verify where and to whom they are being served.
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by Bill LaPierre
VP – Business Intelligence and Analytics
Datamann – 802-295-6600 x235