Ledyard, CT—You can learn a lot about the industry by running a catalog business, according to Terry Jukes, president of software firm Ability Commerce. Jukes should know—he’s run a few merchant companies, including MISCO and G. Neil.
Delivering a keynote address at the NEMOA conference here on Sept. 17, Jukes offered up 10 things merchants should be thinking about right now.
1) Margin. Remember that margin is not just about percentages—you need the dollars to back it up, Jukes said. “I’ve never seen anyone write a percentage sign on a deposit slip for the bank.”
2) Product. As an industry, “we’re getting a little distracted by the technology,” Jukes said. “We need to get back to basics,” namely, the merchandising.
3) Competition. The traditional retail model isn’t working well these days, and cost cutting is affecting service. Catalogers should take note where retailers are falling down and take advantage, Jukes said.
4) Mail. The role of mail is changing, but it’s still important. It has the power to interrupt that the Web does not, Jukes said.
5) Online. Search is changing shopping habits, Jukes said. But merchants shouldn’t overdo it when it comes to the Web: “Not everything online is for you.”
6) Marketplace. Even Wal-Mart has announced that it will allow third-party vendors on its Website. Jukes likened this to sleeping with a polar bear in the Arctic: If you don’t, you’ll freeze to death; if you do, he might eat you. “We have to sleep with the polar bear,” he said.
7) People. Our organizations have too many IT people and not enough high-touch product folks, Jukes said. “We are merchants at our core and we can’t forget that.”
8) Disciplines. These are the reporting processes and systems merchants have in place to get the information they need and use it to their advantage.
9) Evolution. Change is inevitable, Jukes noted. “You’re going to evolve and someone else isn’t.” To make sure you’re going in the right direction, always take the opportunity to talk to your customers.
10) Buddies. The most valuable things we have as an industry are our relationships with colleagues, partners and vendors. Remember to give back by sharing your knowledge and mentoring the newcomers, Jukes said.