How to Boost Sales By Improving Catalog Circulation

Catalogs can be an important driver of sales for certain types of customers and merchandise categories. They capture the attention of consumers, engaging them in your content differently than other channels like e-commerce and social shopping. The key is to understand which customer segments contribute most to your annual sales and evaluate their key metrics, including order frequency, retention rate, and catalog sales attribution rate, before developing your catalog circulation plan.

Whether you have an existing print catalog channel for your business or are seeking to start one to complement your ecommerce or multichannel strategy in 2018, developing a solid plan or blueprint for its circulation will considerably improve the return on your investment. Does your catalog already have a strong circulation plan or could it use a boost?

Six Steps for Seamless Catalog Circulation Management

What might seem like a daunting task when starting out becomes routine with a bit of planning and practice. Get a plan that includes the consideration of these Six Steps and related questions:

Who should receive your catalog? Consider the optimal mix of internal/house and rental lists that you can use for each catalog mailing. Your ratios of these two list types will differ based on the purpose of your mailing. Catalog start-ups and established businesses that have low-customer retention rates will require a higher percent of prospects in their circulation plan.

Incorporate Recency, Frequency and Monetary Value (RFM) as part of your circulation planning strategy. RFM segmentation allows us to extract the top-performing buyers from a customer database. More advanced circulation techniques include incorporating other key variables such as email opt-in status, transaction-channel preference, customer scoring, products or categories purchased, and/or customer type.

Develop a sales forecast for catalog orders and revenue. Once you have gathered the basic metrics from any past catalog mailings, it becomes easier to develop an annual circulation plan that accurately forecasts customer revenue by segment. Pros use the same RFM logic in every catalog mailing. This consistency allows us to group and track the performance of like segments year over year, measuring and celebrating our successes.

If you have an existing e-commerce business and a high percentage of your new customer acquisition is sourced via digital programs, then you need to calculate your catalog sales attribution rate.  Hold-out tests help us understand what percentage of match-back sales should be attributed to the print catalogs. Data from a hold-out test enables circulation managers to determine the best contact frequency by customer segment. High frequency, high-spend buyers might be eligible to receive all your promotional offers. One-time, low-dollar purchasers who have opted-in for your emails might qualify for just one offer per season. This segmentation and further analysis is really meaningful for catalog distribution.  It can save a significant amount of money that can be used to fund more profitable programs, such as acquisition.

Create a horizontal circulation-matrix spreadsheet to track results from each catalog mailing. The matrix organizes the results and allows you to track individual segment performance throughout the year and compare to prior years.  Some metrics to look at regularly include the following:

  • response rate.
  • average order size.
  • dollars of revenue per catalog.
  • seasonal influences.
  • customer acquisition cost (if prospecting).
  • signs of any list fatigue.

Refine your future catalog circulation planning and develop a customer contact strategy based on the prior catalog campaign and test results. The idea is that you can improve catalog circulation in a way that optimizes the target customer reach and grows your brand in all channels. Over time, we optimize a plan with a series of key questions:

  • How many catalog or postcard touches should each customer segment receive during the year?
  • What is the catalog sales attribution rate by segment?
  • How reliant is your business on new customer acquisition?
  • Should you create different catalog formats or page counts for certain segments?
  • Is there an opportunity to mail deeper into your customer file?

Think of the catalog circulation plan as a blueprint for your catalog mailings. Driven by your data and a clear understanding of past catalogs’ results, it’s a plan that addresses key areas 1) who you should mail to, 2) how frequently, 3) how many catalogs you should print, and 4) how to accurately track results so you can design and refine catalog circulation in a way that optimizes target customer reach and grows your brand.

A winning catalog circulation plan with a focus on circulation details, order and revenue forecasting, and implementation enables you to leverage all your marketing data for not only an executable mail campaign but also one that generates success across all marketing channels.

Improve your catalog and get it into the hands of people who will buy from it directly and or be driven by it to make purchases through your website or stores to boost sales.
Tanya Hansel owns Hansel Group Marketing

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