“With your weird Worcester accent, if you ever tried to sell deck chairs from the Titanic, the voice recognition search engines like Siri, Cortana, Google, etc. are all going to think you are selling ‘neck bears’”.
That was how Amy Africa explained to me earlier this week where mobile marketing was going. It was also the second time in two weeks that a colleague had emailed me with a reference to the Titanic – a not so subtle reference to the fate of many catalogs. But let me come back to Amy in a minute.
First, an update from New Hampshire – by the time most of you read this Monday morning, the voting in the first-in-the-nation presidential primary will be less than 24 hours away. Speaking for everyone that lives in NH, we love the honor of hosting the primary. We just wish the candidate and survey phone calls would stop, and we’ll be delighted when everyone leaves town Tuesday night. I’m not going to predict the outcome on either side. But this year’s primary season has shown one thing to be true – you cannot count on the conventional way of doing business anymore.
Second, with eight full weeks to go before our seminar on Customer Acquisition for Catalogs and Ecommerce, we are already more than half way to our goal of 200 registrations. (See below for registration information).
In checking with one of Datamann’s clients to see if she would be attending the seminar, she emailed back “Yes I’m planning to attend, it’s like you designed the content just for me!” And this client is coming all the way from England!
Yes, I did design the content for this year’s seminar around one of the two biggest issues most of you are facing – finding new customers. (The other issue is of course finding the right product).
But here was my conundrum: most of you don’t even think like an on-line company. You are still in love with your catalog. You love designing the catalog, arguing over cover products, and going to the call center to see how many phone orders you received on Monday before noon. Your website is still an after-thought. So why in the world would I ask Amy Africa to give a graduate-level presentation on mobile, when most of you have not even graduated internet high school?
Because maybe this time you will listen and act before it is too late.
Back in the mid-1990s, Amy was one of the first people I knew who jumped onboard the internet train, and this was back when most catalogers (myself included) were still saying the internet was a fad. I remember attending a conference in 1994, where the owners of the old Music Stand catalog stated that they had done a split cover test, putting their URL on a test cover, and leaving it off the control cover. They were concerned that response to the test cover with the URL was 20% higher than the control, because they were afraid it meant they were hurting their catalog. That’s the kind of logic that Amy has been fighting for 20+ years.
Amy will flat out tell you that most people in the industry who claim to be “mobile savvy” simply don’t understand mobile or mobile search. “The people who think that mobile is a division of ecommerce are the same ones hanging on by a shoestring (or already out of business) who thought ecommerce was a division of cataloging.”
In Amy’s opinion, “the new world of mobile ecommerce, in the next five years, is going to level the playing field again. And when I say level, I mean obliterate the entire flipping thing. Only the cockroaches will survive.”
I know that when most of you are designing your catalogs, you still envision your customers sitting on their sofa with either their morning coffee, or evening wine, eagerly thumbing through each spread. I know you do this because this is what I hear you say all the time.
But you are blind to what’s happening in mobile. Go anyplace people are waiting – a restaurant, an airport terminal, the sidewalk – and everyone is looking at their phone. (My wife and I climbed a fairly remote mountain last summer on the Canadian border, and I noticed that while we were there, the first thing each of the other 6 hikers that reached the peak did was check their cell phone when they got above the tree line).
Amy believes that the reason you must invest in mobile (not apps, but sites), is because we read our emails on our handhelds. Email is high converting traffic. Plus, search in the future is going to be 180 degrees different – Google is going to keep much of the traffic for themselves, as is everyone else. So you’ve got to be where the customer needs you – anytime, anyplace. Your cell phone is now an appendage. Your desktops? – well, not so much. And your catalog? When was the last time you saw someone pull a Lands’ End catalog out of their pocket while waiting for their order at a restaurant?
But don’t despair – Amy believes that catalogers have a huge advantage that other ecommerce companies lack – you still have a call center. When your customer struggles with your website or email or text and they push a button, they can get a real, live human being. That’s a huge advantage most of you fail to properly use.
So yes, even though mobile may be a tiny fraction of your order volume now (just like internet traffic was in 1995), it is coming. And it will come far faster than internet activity did. Unlike many other consultants who will tell you how to rearrange and dust the chairs of the Titanic to keep your catalog around a bit longer, Amy is going to tell you how “to hop that damn sinking boat and find some other way to survive.”
Of course, I’m terrified of the likelihood of having to use voice recognition search in the future. Being partially deaf (I’ll bet most of you didn’t know that), I’m already pretty awkward with my cell phone. I’m just hoping that someone develops an app for deciphering my Worcester (MA) County accent, otherwise I’m going to be in trouble when I have to use voice search.
If you have not already done so, register now for Datamann’s all-day seminar for the Vermont / New Hampshire Marketing Group on Customer Acquisition for Catalogs and Ecommerce, on Thursday, March 31, 2016 at the Marriott Courtyard / Grappone Conference Center in Concord, NH.
Registration cost for this all day event:
- $135 for VT/NH Marketing Group members
- $200 for non-members
- $175 for NEMOA members
- Registrations are accepted until March 29, 2016
The Grappone Conference Center, Concord, NH is located at 70 Constitution Ave in Concord, NH – just north of the intersection of I-89 and I-93. The Marriott Courtyard is already sold out, but below are six other hotels, all located within two miles of the conference center in Concord.
Holiday Inn – Concord (closest to the conference center)
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by Bill LaPierre
VP – Business Intelligence and Analytics
Datamann – 800-451-4263 x235