Live from NEMOA: Don’t Overlook Channel Consistency

Cambridge, MA–In a January 2003 survey, co-op database provider Abacus found that 24% of consumers see something they want in a catalog they receive, then go to another marketer’s store to buy it. “That’s almost a merchant’s worst nightmare,” said Paul Imbierowicz, Abacus’s vice president of product management, during a session at the New England Mail Order Association (NEMOA) conference here. The solution? Catalogers need to present a more consistent message among their channels.

Imbierowicz pointed to his own experience as a member of Recreational Equipment Inc.’s buying co-op, in which members receive back from the company a percentage of what they’d spent during the year. REI recently sent him a 10% discount offer via e-mail tied into a reminder of his forthcoming annual payback. Two days later, he received the same offer in his mailbox. Shortly after that, he saw a sign in a REI store communicating the same offer. “REI takes a holistic, integrated approach,” Imbierowicz said, emphasizing “shop your way” in all its channel approaches.

Imbierowicz cited similar channel continuity from gifts mailer RedEnvelope, in which a recent Valentine’s Day promotion was sent via e-mail two days prior to the same offer in its catalog. “Capture e-mail addresses at all channels,” he said. “Customers will give them to you; you just need to ask. You can commission them for giving you their e-mail addresses.”

As another example of keeping channel marketing consistent, Imbierowicz cited a catalog offer in a Lego catalog of a Lego ship. The catalog refers customers to the toy company’s Website to get a 3-D look at the ship.

Among other consistencies catalogers should strive for at all channels, Imbierowicz suggested the following:

* Gift certificates purchased at one channel should be redeemable at the other channels.

* Leverage each channel’s strengths by varying the merchandise assortments.

* Products bought at one channel should be returnable at any other channel.

* Call center reps should be familiar with all channels’ offerings.

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