The New Role of the Catalog

Engaging customers and building lasting relationships are the keys to catalog success, according to Lois Brayfield, president of the consultancy J. Schmid & Associates.

In her session, “The Role of the New Era Catalog: Blending the Online and offline Worlds,” at the MCM Live Conference May 3-4, Brayfield told attendees that print plus Internet plus mobile translates to new opportunities.

“But we must change our thinking from only transactional to a tactic that engages and builds relationships,” she said.

For most catalogers, Brayfield said, about 70% of orders come in online and, of those orders, 65%-70% are generated by the “tap on the shoulder” from the print catalog.

Knowing your customers and what they care about is critical, but offering something captivating and compelling separates merchants. “Free shipping won’t wow your customers,” Brayfield said.

Merchants need a sort of “Willy Wonka Golden Ticket” idea to compel customers, she said.

Video is one way to captivate customers, Brayfield said, provided it solves a problem or satisfies a need. Companies can also engage customers with contests (for a free makeover or a shopping spree, for example), Deal of the Day offers, Groupon-like auctions, or information they need, such as tips on how to plan a party or a celebrity product demonstration.

Brayfield borrowed a key objective from Tony Hsieh, CEO of online shoe and apparel giant Remember ICEE when trying to engage and captivate customers. That stands for interesting, compelling, entertaining, and educational.

Customer excitement differs from customer satisfaction, Brayfield explained. Customer excitement creates value, and consumers are willing to pay more because your brand is memorable.

Using mobile is another way a merchant can entice customers, Brayfield said. “Google mobile search has grown over 500% in the past two years.”

Mobile has the potential to close the loop between online and offline transactions, Brayfield said, considering tied most consumers are to their smart phones and how quickly they can now access the Internet with them.

QR codes (quick response 2D barcodes that when scanned with a mobile device take the user to a specific website) are another way to bridge the print and online channels, Brayfield said.

Bottom line, technology has created fresh ways for merchants to engage with customers and for consumers to browse and shop, so you should be taking advantage of new opportunities. “You’re taking a gamble if you don’t do anything,” Brayfield said.