Friday, July 25, 2008

The Future of Catalog Acquisition?

Much has been written about the future of catalog acquisition, with the growth of ecommerce, the bankruptcy of so many major mailers in the last year, and now, the green movement and consumer opt-out programs.

But I wonder how many truly targeted acquisition opportunities exist today where we can proactively drive new consumer demand. As marketers, we can’t control how many consumers each month will search for “wood daybed” or “turquoise necklace” on Google. And Mary Jane doesn’t just wake up one morning, unaided, and decide to type in your brand name.

Viva La Terra and Acacia are two of my favorite catalogs I just discovered in the last year. I received each of these catalogs a few times as a prospect before a need (in one case, Mother’s day) drove me to the web to make my purchase.

Now, I am by no means a traditional direct shopper. I could probably count on my hands the number of phone orders I have placed in my life. And I prefer the immediate gratification of in store retail shopping more than anything, but I find more and more that the merchandise in retail stores is the same, same, same.

Did mailers potentially mail too deep as response rates declined? Or did response rates decline because we pushed too deep?

Web merchandising has a long way to go before it can deliver the advertising impact of a well-executed catalog. It’s time we shifted our thinking to the catalog as a targeted advertising vehicle, rather than an order channel. The question we should be asking is whether we can make the same advertising impact with 40 pages instead of 80???

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