Tilley’s action plan

Oct 01, 1998 9:30 PM  By

As befits a cataloger and retailer of “travel and adventure clothing,” Tilley Endurables isn’t content to kick back and let business take care of itself. The Don Mills, Ontario-based marketer has expanded its product line, modified its advertising strategy, and redesigned its Website in hopes of lowering its average customer age from 55-plus to around 40. The goal, says spokesman Pankaj Bhavsar, is to “capture customers earlier and keep them longer.” At the same time, Tilley is studying its customer data to determine other ways in which to grow.

In April, Tilley added to its catalog more than a dozen items, including polo and rugby shirts, that cater to a more active lifestyle-and therefore, the company hopes, a younger audience. The new products boosted the number of pages from 70 to 80. Price points range from $42 to $285.

The larger catalog mailed to about 200,000 customers and 80,000 requesters in Canada and the U.S. In addition to a 600,000-name database, Tilley has three stores in Canada, and its products are available in nearly 20 specialty stores in the U.S., including R.E.I. and the Walking Co.

To promote the new products, Tilley, which generates leads through magazine ads, reallocated its media budget to include publications that cater to younger people with active lifestyles, such as Road & Track and Backpacker, though it continues to advertise in publications such as The New York Times, The New Yorker, and Smithsonian, which skew toward Tilley’s traditional audience. But the company discontinued an infomercial it tested in summer 1997 that was designed to reach older audiences.

This past July, Tilley unveiled its redesigned Website (www.tilley.com). The company hopes the new site will strengthen brand awareness and customer relationships through repeat visits driven by games, chat rooms, and other features. Players of the Website’s “Quest for Artifacts” game, for instance, score points by collecting “artifacts” and unlocking “treasure chests.” Visitors log in their e-mail addresses to record their scores, and the 10 highest scores are displayed. Tilley is betting that visitors will return repeatedly to the site to boost their scores-and while they’re online, shop from the Web catalog.

Working the data Another feature on the Website, “The Change Room,” lets visitors input their measurements and select the clothing categories in which they’re interested. The catalog product database automatically calculates the customer’s correct size and recommends products. For now, Tilley will use the data to make new product decisions, Bhavsar says. In the future, however, the information may be used to create customized e-mail offers, such as announcing a sale on hats to users who have shown an interest in hats.

Tilley is also considering using customers’ transaction histories to create spin-offs, including catalogs dedicated to hats, silk apparel, and women’s sportswear. A book selling only cotton clothing, mailed in summer 1997, generated enough of a response for the company to consider testing other niche markets. The company is also studying the benefits of rewards-based loyalty marketing programs. To put these ideas into practice, Tilley in July hired Tanya Boyd Saffran to the new position of marketing manager.

Effective Oct. 4, some mailers of digest-size and oversize catalogs will be able to obtain flats barcoding postage discounts of 12%-20% for the first time. On Aug. 26, the U.S. Postal Service announced proposed requirements for catalogs and other flats to pass through the agency’s new FSM 1000 flat-sorting machines. The requirements, which were expected to be approved by late September, are:

* Maximum size: 15-3/4″ (length) x 12″ (height)

* Maximum thickness: 1-1/3″ if 13″ long or less; 7/8″ for flats 13″-15-3/4″ long

* Minimum size: 4″ (length) x 4″ (height) only if thicker than 1/4″

* Minimum thickness: 0.009″ if length is 5″ or more

* Maximum weight: 16 oz. (same as any Standard A mail piece)

Currently, digest-size flats, which are too heavy to qualify for letter mail discounts, get jammed in the 25-year-old FSM 881 machines; meanwhile, oversize flats are too heavy, bulky, or flimsy to pass through the machines. But the new FSM 1000s, which were rolled out earlier this year, can process more digest-size and oversize flats.

But the USPS could be doing more, some contend. The new specifications are “a good starting point,” says Kathy Siviter, vice president of the Advertising Mail Marketing Association, “but they’ll need to be changed down the road,” especially if the additional discounts result in more volume than the machines, which work more slowly than the standard FSM 881s, can handle. “The Postal Service is concerned about capacity issues for the 342 FSM 1000s it has up and running.”