Crutchfield, Winter/Spring 1998

Sep 01, 1998 9:30 PM  By

Crutchfield knows that it must compete not only with other catalogers of car stereos and home electronics but also with neighborhood stereo dealers and huge retail chains. So while the catalog does a masterful job of selling its merchandise, it also works to sell readers on shopping from home.

Bound within the first spread is a letter from William Crutchfield himself citing the reasons Crutchfield provides a superior shopping experience: two-day delivery for a flat price of $5.95, a 30-day “total satisfaction” guarantee, and free shipping on returns, to name a few. In conjunction with six toll-free order and service lines highlighted on the back cover (including phone lines for Spanish speakers and the deaf), and the detailed order form touting payment plans and free consumer guides, “every base is covered as far as building confidence in catalog selling,” one judge says. The only complaint the panelists have regarding service is that the sidebar “More Reasons to Shop Crutchfield” is buried on page 66.

Meanwhile, the “spectacular” copy, to quote another panelist, builds confidence in Crutchfield’s product knowledge. “Specifications for the ‘techie’ give the user all the facts needed to make an intelligent buying decision,” says a judge. In addition to specs for each item, the catalog devotes full pages to how to create the ideal home theater (with cross-references to product pages) and prints tip boxes highlighting what to look for when choosing equipment. Scattered throughout are Q&A boxes, such as the one on page 21, which answers the question “Can I replace just the receiver in my premium factory sound system without replacing the speakers too?” In its answers, Crutchfield cleverly doesn’t push product, giving customers the sense that the firm is on their side.

If the book’s design equaled its copy and customer service, the catalog would doubtless have won a Gold Award. But the judges are disappointed with what one terms “the clutter” of the pages. “Eyeflow is a problem,” says another. “Even though prices are highlighted in red, it’s often difficult to attach prices and specs to products.”

Nonetheless, Crutchfield’s focus on its audience throughout goes a long way to compensate for any creative drawbacks. “The catalog does a very nice job of offering customers so many goodies that it can overtake virtually any advantage to buying retail,” a panelist enthuses. And according to Crutchfield’s entry form, this tactic of positioning itself as a superior alternative to retail works; the company claims the catalog “sells product like mad!”