Catalogs drive Web traffic

New study confirms that mailings boost online visits Many catalogers suspected as much, but a new consumer study confirms it: A print catalog is the most effective driver of traffic to a Website.

The study, conducted by Erard Moore Associates, was commissioned by industry group New England Mail Order Association (NEMOA) and was presented at NEMOA’s September conference. The research involved initial in-depth interviews with NEMOA members, quantitative surveys with 400 female online consumers, and focus groups among catalog buyers who also purchased from Websites. Among the other findings:

– Search engines and portals are the second-most effective means of driving traffic to a site. Consumer respondents also cited typing in the company name as the URL and recommendations by friends or co-workers as other means of finding sites.

– Respondents said they visit new Websites to request a print catalog, to search for a specific item, and to check out an offer.

– More than half of the Web shoppers surveyed had bought from the same print catalog within the past two years.

– Respondents cited several benefits in buying from a catalog’s Website: being able to view the company’s complete inventory; saving time by identifying the item in the print catalog and ordering online; easily tracking orders; immediately learning which merchandise is out of stock; and finding lower prices or more sales compared to the print books.

For more information on the study, contact NEMOA’s Joan McLaughlin at mcljoan@aol.com.

…with David Blaise David Blaise is president/CEO of 800-Trekker, the Reading, PA-based parent company of the 800-Trekker and Brainstorms catalogs of sci-fi products and gifts.

Where did you grow up?

Reading, PA – best known for the Reading Railroad on the Monopoly board. Oh, and it’s pronounced “Redding,” not “Reeding.”

What was your first job out of college?

I was a top-40 disc jockey and production director for a radio station in Philadelphia.

What catalog do you most admire?

Sharper Image, for its ability to make even a nonshopper like myself want to get out my wallet and buy something.

Do you shop by catalog? Which ones?

Brainstorms and 800-Trekker, of course, plus Harry and David, The Edge Co., and Lilly’s Kids.

Whom in the catalog business do you most admire?

Patrick Gaffney, former owner of The Edge Co., for building his vision and having impeccable timing; and Marshall Cordell, former owner of Anatomical Chart Co. (and Brainstorms), for his passion, persistence, and ability to overcome adversity.

If you could change one thing about the catalog business, what would it be?

Everyone would get his catalog online and print it out on his own color printer!

What was the biggest risk you ever took in your career?

Trusting a banker.

What is your secret obsession?

Free music on Napster.

If you could trade places with someone for a day, who would you be?

Judge Judy.

Other than, perhaps, your current job, what would your dream job be?

TV weatherman. You can be wrong 99% of the time and people still love you.

Who is your favorite cartoon character?

Daffy Duck. He’s always getting his butt kicked, but he keeps coming back for more.

What is the best book you have ever read?

The E-Myth, by Michael Gerber.

What is the worst movie you have ever seen?

The Perfect Storm. I couldn’t bring myself to care.

What’s your favorite movie snack food or candy?

Milk Duds.

What’s in your CD player now?

Paul Simon’s Greatest Hits.

What destination (that you have yet to visit) would you most like to travel to?

Hawaii – without the 11-hour flight.

What kind of car do you drive?

Honda Accord.

Who’s your favorite actor?

Gene Hackman.

Are you a dog person or a cat person?

Both, but if I have to choose, I’ll say dog.

Who is your favorite Star Trek character?

Spock. He’s cool, logical, loyal, and very smart.

When pet supplies Web cataloger Petopia.com acquired Portland, TN-based In the Company of Dogs (ICOD) in January, it made sure that the catalog of upscale products for canine lovers didn’t go to the dogs. After mailing five ICOD editions in the spring and summer, San Francisco-based Petopia unveiled a redesigned ICOD catalog this fall. Among the new features are a bolder logo, a cleaner layout, and more lifestyle photography.

“Our goal was to make the book more pet-centric,” says Leila Bailey, vice president of merchandising for Petopia.com. “The catalog is really for pet lovers, and we wanted to convey that through the photography and product offering.”

Most of the photos now feature people, dogs, or people with dogs, rather than the merchandise against a backdrop. Photos are also propped to display a number of products in one shot. The catalog sells accessories for dogs, such as beds and jeweled collars, as well as dog-themed apparel and home accessories for dog lovers. Prices range from $16 for a pet ID tag to $399 for a wood chair for humans.

The ICOD catalog remains a separate brand from Petopia.com, which sells primarily more practical supplies, such as grooming products, food, toys, and accessories for a variety of domestic animals.

Bailey will not disclose annual sales or circulation for the catalog, nor will she say whether ICOD is mailing to any of Petopia.com’s customers. But she adds, “We did find the cross-promotional opportunities attractive when we acquired the catalog.”

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