Live From Internet Retailer: Traditional Catalog Model Shifting For CWDKids

Boston—Do catalogers still have a future if customers continue to shift their focus to other channels?

Yes, said Tracey Schneider, vice president of e-commerce for children’s products merchant during a session Tuesday at the Internet Retailer Conference & Exhibition 2009.

But catalogs can no longer be treated as the number-one touch point, just as the Internet cannot be treated like the “red-headed stepchild” as Schneider said CWDKids treated e-commerce in 2003.

And when you throw in touch points such as Facebook, Twitter, affiliate marketing and e-mail marketing, the eco-system for catalogers can get a little muddy.

“Neither channel (e-commerce or catalog) is really number-one for us,” Schneider said. “I really think we as an industry are in a period of transition. No one has figured out how to balance all the touch points, and putting them all together is the biggest challenge.”

Matchbacks don’t make things any clearer, either, Schneider said. “Everything is overlapping so much, you have to ask yourself how to attribute a sale that went to a customer who gets a catalog, responds to e-mails, and found a coupon code online,” Schneider said. “It’s tough to weave through all that data, but there is no question that the shift continues to grow online.”

Schneider said 17% of all CWDKids orders that came through on the Web had a catalog source code. But she’s not convinced the catalog will completely go away, just that it will take on a different role in marketing.

Though the core mom and grandma customers are getting more Internet savvy, Schneider says customers still like to thumb through catalogs. But now, the CWDKids catalog is used as a traffic driver, to direct shoppers to go online to find more merchandise.

CDWKids did cut its circulation from 15.6 million in 2003 to 12.4 million at the end of 2008, but that’s not just due to channel preferences and list hygiene. Schneider said that is as much the fault of paper companies and the U.S. Postal Service for raising prices and practically discouraging mailers to put books in the mail.

“If they continue to raise prices and keep us from mailing, we’re fine with that,” Schneider said. “We know the catalog is not the only touch point.”

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