I was just reading an interview with Tony Cox, founder of the multichannel food consultancy 5th Food Group, in Multichannel Merchant. Halfway through, I stopped and said, “Huh? Did I really read that?”
Cox had been asked whether he recommended mailing catalogs anymore or whether catalogs are playing a new role for direct merchants in an online world. He said,
“It’s simple economics—as costs for paper and postage continue to rise, and response rates stay flat or fall, the costs of acquiring customers via list rental is becoming prohibitively expensive.
“Case in point, if the proposed postal rate increase goes through in January, it will be another nail in the coffin for both the Postal Service and for smaller catalog companies.”
Did you see it? The implication was it is becoming prohibitively expensive to acquire customers via list rental by sending them unsolicited catalogs as a prospecting tool. Therefore — and Mr. Cox didn’t say this, but in context — the reader was left to assume that the alternative in today’s postal climate was electronic media.
Mr. Cox did mention catalogs reducing page counts, but there wasn’t a single mention of personalization.
Instead of just writing off print for prospecting, as was implied, why not just switch your prospecting to postcards? Pitch the catalog, then let people choose the products on which they would like information. Send them to a personalized URL, where they can select their product categories, then get them excited about watching for their personalized catalogs in the mail.
If you want to boost response rates, over-size the cards and laminate them. Are they more expensive than traditional postcards? Of course! But they’ll be cheaper to send than catalogs! Then when you do send catalogs, they’ll be slimmer and more cost-effective.
With today’s personalization technologies, creating personalized catalogs is easier than ever. Software vendors like Gluon have created online-based solutions optimized for creating publications that are absolutely terrific. Even small companies can use them. Especially when customers self-select their own categories, there is no excuse for not personalizing these days.
The bottom line is that there is no need to abdicate print. Catalogers just need to do it smarter!
It’s too bad that message didn’t make it into the interview.