Dos and Don’ts for Handling Web Catalog Requests

Feb 21, 2006 12:05 AM  By

You can profitably convert web requests for your catalog. But Web requesters have a much shorter attention span than traditional catalog requests, so you have to treat them a little differently.

Here’s some advice on what to do – and what not to do – when fulfilling web requests:

  1. Do send the catalog immediately. You have to fulfill these requests with first class mail or, even better, with an expedited delivery mailed the day you get the request so they get the catalog right away.
  2. Don’t forget to send them a thank you within an hour of receiving the request, offering the recipient a promotional deal to order now.
  3. Do send them a stream of follow up e-mails in addition to the catalog.
  4. Don’t assume that the orders that come through the call center from Web requested catalogs represent the full demand for orders. If they ordered the catalog on the Web, more than 80% of the initial orders will be placed on the Web. You need to have some match back analysis process in place to measure the full demand.
  5. Do direct them to your on-line catalog or send them a link to your on-line catalog or home page so they see the merchandise the day they request your catalog.
  6. Don’t hope you can mail them more than one or two catalogs. The old cycle of mailing four to 10 catalogs to a requester is obsolete and a guaranteed profit drain.
  7. Do optimize those web requests at your co-op database and suppress those households that don’t buy through the direct marketing. Also suppress those households that don’t buy within your product category. The chance of success is so small it makes sense to suppress lots of web requests after you’ve sent them an initial catalog. Send multiple catalogs only to those households that you can identify through optimization as live households currently buying within your merchandise category.

In the old days you could spend three months trying to convert a catalog request into a buyer. Now you should focus on converting them within the day and within the week to placing that initial order. Attention spans have tightened up with the web so don’t waste your profits mailing to catalog requests long after they have lost interest in your offer.

Jim Coogan is president of Santa Fe, NM-based Catalog Marketing Economics.