First published on MyTotalRetail.com blog April 2015
© 2015 Susan J. McIntyre
Are your catalog and products unique? Are they loaded with customer benefits? If "yes" to both, are you also telling your benefit+unique story well enough to your customer?
A CATALOG THAT DID IT WRONG
True story. A few years ago, a relatively new cataloger went out of business. I'll call them "Catalog Look-a-Like".
The fundamental problem was this: Catalog Look-a-Like was started specifically to clone the top competitors in their market, rather than carving out a niche within that market, or adding a new twist to the product offering.
Catalog Look-a-Like sold the same products as their competitors, sourced from the same vendors, used the same vendor photos, offered look-a-like prices, service, guarantee, the works. They might at least have done a better job of selling product benefits, but their product stories were look-a-like too.
They got some customers, but few repeat buys. Market share stayed small, because why would satisfied customers of a competitor switch to Look-a-Like when Look-a-Like offered no competitive advantages?
Does this sound like an extreme example? Not so much as you'd think.
This type of "look-a-like" thinking infects many catalogers to one degree or another.
WHY UNIQUE? WHY BENEFITS?
Becoming less "look-a-like" and more unique — and better communicating the benefits of the uniqueness you offer — will increase response and customer loyalty.
"Unique" for catalogs means the design, fabrication, color, etc. is one-of-a-kind (not that the individual item is a limited edition of one). But isn't getting unique products really hard? Well, it’s not easy, but many catalogers big and small have learned how to do it, and do it well.
CATALOGS THAT DO IT RIGHT
Rossi makes a special kind of pasta unique to them, much superior to grocery-store pasta, and they tell a compelling unique+benefit story.
Rossi hand-crafts all 29 of their pasta flavors — from Spinach-Basil-Garlic to Chocolato-Cabernet to Fire! — from fresh, all-natural ingredients using an authentic centuries-old Northern Italian process. And it cooks in 3 minutes for fast, flavorful dinners.
Rossi Pasta has taken a common-seeming product and made it uniquely theirs, and loaded with customer benefits.
DULUTH TRADING CO.
Duluth Trading is known for their clever, humorous copy. But clever alone doesn't sell. Duluth's work clothes are also loaded with special features with important customer benefits , like 2" longer tees for less accidental exposure, and many specialty fabrics. Here is work-shorts copy from Duluth's women's catalog: "Quick-drying shorts...with 6 total pockets: 2 front, 1 cargo snap, 2 back and an 8" Pokey Things Pocket with a tear-resistant nylon sheath..." (wow — the perfect pocket for my pruner).
Duluth's products each have a twist that make them unique. And with Duluth's excellent copy and layout, the reader can always quickly grasp their benefits.
"OK" you might be thinking, "benefits and unique products are well and good for food and functional products, but not for fashion." Think again.
Pure Collection offers three different types of "Luxury Cashmere" that they specially source, comb, dye and spin for extra softness and superior quality. And they tell a compelling story throughout their catalog about their products and benefits, like this:
SIGNATURE CASHMERE 100% PURE.
Our unique goat-to-garment sourcing means we have the first pick of the very best cashmere at advantageous prices, passing the savings on to you, no middlemen.
So, does every product you offer need to be unique? Not at all. But if enough are unique-to-you, that just gives your customers more reasons to keep coming back. Especially if you can do a good job — via copy, photos and layout — of telling your customers about all the benefits those products offer.