THE CATALOG DOCTOR'S FIVE TOP FAQS
First published on RetailOnlineIntegration.com blog December 2014
© 2014 Susan J. McIntyre
The Frequently-Asked Questions below are real questions I've been asked over and over through the years. I'm not making these up.
Do you sometimes get asked these questions too? If you do, here are quick and simple answers you can use.
FAQ #1: "Why do we have to mail so many catalogs when most never result in orders? Why can't we just mail to the people who are going to buy?"
A. There's no way to know who's going to buy.
B. Most mailers (probably including your company) have already, for every mailing, been taking many technologically advanced steps — from statistical modeling to data overlays to list hygiene and more — to pare each mailing list down to just those who actually are most likely to buy. Assuming no change in offers, prices or design, the resulting response rates for most catalogers are about as good as they're going to get for now.
FAQ #2: "Aren't all the catalog design 'rules' obsolete? Don't you need on-trend design to have a successful catalog nowadays?"
Quick Answer: It's a fallacy that "trendy design" and catalog rules are inconsistent with one another. And another fallacy is that catalog rules are obsolete. Two foundations of all catalog rules are:
B. Shopping should be as easy as possible for the customer.
Those two rules can be executed with many different design styles and many different copy voices.
FAQ #3: "Don't we need models in our photos? Don't models always help products sell better?"
Quick Answer: Some product categories sell better with models, some without. What works best for you? To find out, first check if your competitors use models or not...they might be on to something. Second, test a few products with and without models and see if your catalog sees a sales difference.
FAQ #4: "How can we accurately track which orders come from the catalog without getting orders from other channels mixed in?"
Not-So-Quick Answer: Set up tracking mechanisms for each channel — that may require custom programming. Be sure your order management system has fields to accept the data telling which channel the order came from — that may require custom programming. Be sure the (properly-labeled) order data from each channel is actually flowing into your order management system — that may require custom programming. (Do you see a pattern here?) Require that emails have promo codes be entered whenever possible to help in tracking. Conduct hold-back tests where possible (catalog, email, outbound telemarketing) to help verify if your OMS custom programs are reporting sales consistent with your hold-back test results (if not, trust the test results and adjust the OMS programming assumptions). Keep doing matchbacks, and adjust their allocations as you learn to better track results from each channel. Live with the fact that long-term customer performance is based on multi-channel interactions with your company and you'll never again be able to positively assign each order to just one channel.
FAQ #5: "I want to launch a new catalog and I want it to be profitable from the very first mailing. How do I do that?"
Quick Answer: Follow the yellow brick road to the Emerald City, then talk to the voice of the Wizard behind the curtain.