Thursday, February 11, 2010

In My Mailbox This Week

Here are the direct mail pieces I received this week in my mailbox, both as a customer and a prospect, along with anything interesting to note:

  • Garnet Hill- (Mailed as a customer) Entire opening spread dedicated to one product, supported by lifestyle photography, detail shots, and a brand message
  • Sundance- (Mailed as a customer) Opens with home product, featuring three pitchers and a dining table; most notable is the 8-page spread in the back featuring swimwear plus the continued move towards fashion-forward styling
  • Bevmo- (Very appropriate for those of you who know me well) Folded direct mail piece featuring their 5 cent sale- buy one wine, get the second for 5 cents!
  • Huggies- 10 page mailer with coupons (I read somewhere that you change nine thousand diapers in the first year with twins)
  • Boden- 172 page catalog in a small format size, featuring 15% plus free shipping and returns on a cover dot whack plus opening spread fold-out (no product on cover)
  • Grandinroad- Emphasis on “Get the Look” with more editorial content and price call-outs; free shipping on wall d├ęcor
  • Ballard Designs- Received two “Early Spring 2010” catalogs with different covers; one as a prospect and a second in an envelope with a thank you message (received as a hotline new buyer)
  • Champion- Received this catalog as a prospect, featuring sports bra sale (new catalog for me); high product density and promotional creative (featured men’s and women’s product); I suspect I received this catalog because I made a recent purchase with Athleta
  • Received this catalog as a prospect; “Best bra sale ever”
  • Justice- Postcard featuring 40% entire store for 5 days only; I suspect I received this postcard because I bought a gift card for my niece

Monday, February 1, 2010

The Cost of Shipping

It really does boil down to shipping. After all the hours and dollars spent building and optimizing the business, don't forget to consider your shipping tables.

I receive multiple catalogs from home decor and furnishings retailers, and I enjoy looking through them. I recently purchased a new desk for my home office and thought I would share with you my amazing experience with shipping and handling.

I went online to order the desk I'd picked out, and when I went to check out the cart said that shipping was $322. I found that hard to believe, so I then called the 800-number and this was in fact the correct charge. This seemed ridiculously high, so I then went to purchase another desk online via another catalog. This time shipping was $39. The desk was the same size and very similar- with the same expected time frame for shipping (2-4 weeks).

Have you reviewed your competitor's shipping tables lately?

Popular Initiatives for 2010

I am a terrific example of how not to use social media- i.e. sporadically. Fortunately, the reason for this is that we have been exceptionally busy with budgeting and planning for 2010- what looks to be a promising year by both economic measures and early feedback from dozens of clients. Here are the big items that seem to be on everyone's mind as we rally to build business back up:
  • Acquiring new customers- increasing marketing spend back to 12-month payback period
  • Ramping up their 12 month active file (including new, retained, and reactivated)
  • Returning to growth mode - many private companies are striving for double digit growth
  • Building a plan to stand out - from offering a unique experience to overhauling merchandise strategies and creative
  • Finding the right balance of online marketing and direct mail
  • Understanding the right social media strategy for their brand/target customer

Within the online space, several additional topics continue to get a lot of attention: paid search (still tackling incrementality), re-targeting programs, customer reviews, and email prospecting. We are constantly looking for new opportunities and will be sure to share the outcome of our innovation workshop in early March in San Francisco.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Fall Catalogs That Stand Out

Here is a list of some of the great call-outs from the early fall books.

Innovative Merchandising Partnerships to Note:
Grandinroad and Martha Stewart
Pottery Barn Kids and Barbie

Impressive Brand Endorsement to Note:
House Beautiful and Ballard Designs

New Creative to Note:
Restoration Hardware’s Worldly Design
Anthropologie’s fall look and feel

Entirely New Merchandise and Creative!
Check out the latest Sundance catalog

On a side note, I have received a whole stack of catalogs this week- the week leading into Labor Day weekend. We'll see how this mail date strategy works!

Monday, August 24, 2009

On to More Interesting Things

Over the past few months, we have all heard the same story again and again about the economy. We are going to assume we are on the upswing, given all of the positive economic indicators, and stop talking about something we have all talked about ad nauseum!

So, on to more interesting things! Over the last few months, hot topics seems to include customer retention programs, 12 month file sizes, page count and contact strategies, 2009 holiday promotions, email list rental, and social marketing.

A few thoughts to get us started!

A few of you have asked about the timing of your sale books this holiday/winter season. We polled some mailers and the consensus is to go in-home with the earlier date for both house and prospects. If you mail prospects later you run into sell out situations which do not make for a good first impression. Industry reports are also indicating that more people will be home for the holidays and that holiday travel the week between Christmas and New Years will be down.

We are also interested in some of the latest customer reactivation strategies that include following up a catalog mailing with a postcard or letter the same week with a special reactivation offer. With the additional cost of the second contact and the cost of the promotion, the big question is whether this is still more effective than your marginal prospecting efforts.

Lastly, how is early fall trending for everyone?

In our next blog, we will post the most popular promotions from last September.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Light at the end of the tunnel

This morning my newborn twins slept until 4 am for the first time, and I woke up thinking, Great! There is light at the end of the tunnel.

This is much of what we see and hear from clients too. Small signs that business is rebounding: customer counts stabilizing, achieving Plan (even though Plan is down to LY), customers actually buying full price, prospects starting to respond again, new ecommerce programs showing strength, retail comps climbing back from the deep end. Economically, we see the Dow rebounding and hear that home sales have picked back up a little, along with consumer confidence.

For me, one of the biggest surprises is hearing that high price point brands and/or brands selling nice-to-haves vs. must-haves are seeing a pick up too. To manage expectations, we are not talking about leaps over LY here- just a slow pick up against results that were down to LY in the double digits.

Last night, when I searched for coupons for two websites I was shopping on, nothing came up. I still made the transactions though, and as a marketer, I wondered if I was throwing off someone's incremental testing for the impact of promotions... If we can finally pull away from the constant promotions, we are left to really think about how to MARKET to our customers. How exciting!

Friday, January 23, 2009

Holiday 2008 Buyers- How do they compare?

Chances are, you had fewer customers who spent less and relied more on promotions during Holiday 2008 than in any other season in the past. As we find ourselves quickly immersed in 2009, here are a few key metrics to keep track of. Be sure to break out new and existing customers by segment/source for each of these metrics and compare to last year:

Standard metrics
> Repeat purchase rate
> Subsequent orders per buyer
> Subsequent revenue per customer
> Subsequent profit per customer- fully loaded (not just marketing costs)

Additional key metrics
> Subsequent orders and demand by source (email, search, catalog)
> % Incremental for results tied back to the catalog (by building sustainable mail/no mail groups and including path to purchase data)
> Total subsequent marketing costs (the cost of all marketing touches, from catalog to email and affiliates)
> % Of demand that is full price vs. sale/clearance vs. with discount/free shipping
> Customer migration across merchandise categories (what are they buying next?)
> Corporate results, if you are a multi-title company (% conversion to other titles and the sales and profit to the other titles)

The key questions are
1)How will customers from the 2008 holiday season compare to buyers from holidays past?
2)How should you change your contact strategy based on these metrics?