MCM Awards judges Neal Schuler, president/principal of Schuler Creative Consulting, Brad Wolansky, CEO at The Golf Warehouse, and Amy Africa, chief instigation officer at web consultancy Eight By Eight, might not always see eye to eye. But one thing they all agree on: Merchants need to get the basics right.
During their March 3 session, “Winning Ways: The Multichannel Merchant Awards Judges Weigh in on What Makes a Winning Catalog or Website,” at the NEMOA DirectXChange conference in Boston, the trio of experts offered up some sage advice based on reviewing the MCM Award entrants this year. These are a few of the points they made.
Take advantage of opportunities for trigger emails. Africa noted one website (Beretta.com) that was collecting email addresses of people who were interested in a product it had sold out of.
Not only is this a way collect emails to do a trigger campaign when the product (or a similar item) is in stock, it provides you with information on what customers want, Africa said. What’s more, it gives you a better handle on phantom demand (what you could have sold had the product been in stock).
Leverage the power of testimonials and reviews. This isn’t easy to measure in print catalogs, Schuler admitted, but it has a positive influence on customers. Double-exposing product shots often has an incremental effect, he added.
Even though prospects are finding you through search, your home page is still important. Wolansky cited an example of an apparel merchant home page that was a “road block” due to a major promotion that dominated the page.
“I don’t believe in sacrificing brand for a promo,” Wolansky said. “I want to show off what my brand is about, even while viewing a promo. The home page is where you put your best foot forward.”
Popups are dependent on creative, but they work. Wolansky admitted to being against popups altogether in the past, but he has now embraced them. “After I got to TGW, we tested and realized they didn’t hurt conversion one bit.”
The lesson here: Get your ego out of the equation, Africa stated.
Invest in “championing your beneficial difference” vs. square-inch analysis. “People respond to BIG simple ideas,” Schuler said.
He used the Shoes For Crews catalog as an example of a company that names its competition and quantifies the difference in terms of what makes its product better. “When you can be that specific, it resonates with customers.”
Too much editorial copy can be a bad thing online. “Show pictures to entice them,” Wolansky said.
That’s not necessarily the case in print, however. Schuler cited the lengthy product editorials the Musician’s Friend catalog used throughout the book as a key branding element with its customers. “Editorials can create authority and well high price points,” he said.
Web merchants should be focusing on five critical areas. Africa, who is never short on tips, offered five things sites need to get right: entry page, search engines, checkout, email programs (“makes up for all weaknesses on your site”) and navigation. “Your search is an evolutionary process,” she added.