Christian Retailing

Did your catalog mailing work? Print Email
Written by Erik Ernstrom   
Tuesday, 05 May 2015 02:53 PM America/New_York

Erik-ErnstromLearn how to know whether your print catalogs are effective

Last issue I wrote on the importance of sending catalogs to your customers and getting them into the hands of consumers who are most likely to respond. Now it’s time to pull off a great promotion and analyze its success.

Let’s start with the ultimate best practice: keeping every promoted product in stock throughout the promotion. I know this might make you cringe because you know in your gut there are products you won’t ever sell. You’re right. I guarantee there are items everyone else sells, but you don’t. It happens to every store. There are a lot of reasons why, but strictly from a numbers perspective, let me ask you this: If you stock only one copy of a promoted product, aren’t you telling your customers that it’s just as important as a spine-out book buried in Christian Living?

So how much worse is it in your customers’ eyes when you choose to not carry a promoted product at all?

Imagine inviting people to your house for a birthday party where you’ll be serving food, sodas and dessert, but then making a conscious decision to not purchase any soda. Not only would you disappoint your guests, you’d sound silly telling them you were waiting until someone asked for a drink before actually running to the store to buy it—especially if you did it one guest at a time. I know this is a ridiculous example, but it’s not that different than sending catalogs to your customers while choosing to not stock every item in that catalog.

Have I convinced you? If I have, now consider, how do you easily check that everything is on order, and how do you keep it in stock during the promotion? Some marketing groups supply POS files that include every promoted product in a given catalog. These files update your POS, flag each product and give you the tools to run stocking reports for that group of titles. Hopefully you’re receiving these files three to four weeks before street date so you can ensure everything is on the shelf prior to the catalog hitting mailboxes. Then on a weekly basis (at a minimum), use these files to reorder items that are low.

There is also a program where you can get a distributor-supplied order of everything you need for an upcoming promotion. You don’t get copies of every item in the catalog, just the ones you need based on your data—clearly a data-driven solution that will save you time and make ordering easier.

You also can use online tools available to all marketing groups to watch your inventory levels. These interactive reports focus on promoted titles that are running low or are completely out of stock. This saves you a tremendous amount of time because you aren’t analyzing every promoted title. The system does it for you.

Remember, working smarter is always better than working harder. If you’re working smarter, then you’re saving time in the future. This will allow you to interact more with your customers—which is why we open our doors each morning.

OK, so you’ve stocked your store, you’ve sent your catalogs and you’ve served customers throughout the promotion. Now what? How do you know if all of that actually worked? Do you count coupons? Do you ask your staff how many catalogs they saw in customers’ hands during the month? What’s the best way to analyze the success of a promotion?

Just counting coupons won’t show a true response. I’ve heard a lot of store owners comment that a mailing “didn’t work” because they only received a few coupons, but that’s not a good way to judge a catalog. The real purpose of the catalog is to drive customers into the store, whether they use a coupon or not.

Here’s what you do: First, determine how much you invested in catalogs. Include the catalog, postage, data fees, NCOA processing and any other related expenses. Then analyze each of the customers who received the catalog to determine how many of them responded and how much they spent during the promotion. From this, you can calculate your ROI to see if you profited more than you invested.

Lastly, don’t forget, regardless of which marketing group you’re partnered with, vendors pay a significant amount of money to get exposure in your store. They are paying a lot to place those products in your catalog with the expectation every store will be carrying those items. They’re doing their part to put that product in front of your customer. The question is: Are you using data to easily do your part?

Keep in mind that these inventory and analysis tools are available to any store. I would highly encourage utilizing them for every mailing.

Remember, you need to be able to measure it if you want to manage it.