Five Ways Multichannel Marketers Fail Their Businesses

Sep 23, 2010 3:26 AM  By

Multichannel merchants have plenty of shortcomings when it comes to integrating catalogs and the web, according to Bill LaPierre, senior vice president—business intelligence and brokerage at Infogroup—Direct Media Millard.

In his session at the NEMOA fall conference last week LaPierre detailed five common failures.

1) Being obsessed with their catalogs. ”Everyone picks apart their catalog, but no one know what’s going on online,” La Pierre said. One mistake here is trying to show every product in print, he said.

For instance, specialty foods mailer Stonewall Kitchen depicts every jar of the different jams it sells in its catalog, while candles merchant Yankee Candle shows all of its candles. Instead, LaPierre noted, how about a reminder to “come to our website for more” or “see our full selection online.”

2) Ignoring Web design basics. “People have been ignoring catalog design basics for years—why should the web be any different?” LaPierre joked. For example, The Vermont Country Store’s website makes the mistake of downplaying its search box, while L.L. Bean buries its “show catalog” function at the bottom of its site.

Bean’s product presentation online is often too sterile, LaPierre said. “Online, we tend to treat all items the same and don’t use hero shots the way print catalogs do.” Meanwhile, Orvis does use hero shots when you get to a product page, he said, and the merchant no doubt sees a lift in sales on those items.

3) Not keeping up with Web features. You have to balance the cool (product carousels, videos, Facebook, mobile) with the necessary (in-stock status, relevant reviews, upsells and cross-sells), LaPierre said. If you offer customer reviews, can users sort them? Are your upsells above the fold with the product? Can your customers add products to their cart without losing their place on the site?

4) Failing to acquire customers online. Many catalogers will say they tried online prospecting years ago and it didn’t work, LaPierre said. Well, it’s time to try it again, because e-mail appending and prospecting do work. Rather than develop Web customers, “we’re continuing to redrive catalog activity,” LaPierre said.

5) Failing to develop Web-only business and products. Mail order merchants tend to think, “If it’s not good enough for the catalog, why put it on the Web?” LaPierre said. This is a big mistake.

The catalog may be an important component of a marketing plan, but it doesn’t always need to be a 64-page book of everything you sell. For example, LaPierre pointed out women’s apparel merchant J. Jill’s 24-page digest-size catalog, which is effective at driving both retail and Website traffic.

“I’m not advocating doing away with the catalog,” LaPierre said, “but use it to drive business online more efficiently.” In other words, he added, “Do you want to be rich or pure?”