Learning from CatalogsJanette Toral
Do you still remember the first time someone handed you an Avon, Sara Lee, and Triumph brochure inviting you to order one of its products? How did the pictures enticed you, no matter how a bit more expensive these products are compared to buying similar products from traditional stores? For the Filipino culture, catalogs are always an attraction to shopping. However, if one is given a catalog whose quality is less of those we got accustomed to, we immediately dismiss it as cheap or not trustworthy enough.
So how does this equate to e-commerce? In order for e-commerce to succeed in the Philippine context, our online merchants should think from a catalog perspective. Products must be promoted like a catalog. The advantage of the Internet is that it allows merchants to put more information about a product than a catalog that has limited space. However, as most online catalogs are handled by technical people, the marketing spiel does not exist.
A good book that I read lately and highly recommend to anyone wanting to put up an online shop is Jack Schmid’s Creating a Profitable Catalog. I am convinced, more than ever, that in order for a website to succeed in the local market, it must compliment it with an attractive catalog filled with exciting products.
Schmid defined 10 core competencies that companies must have in order to come up with a profitable catalog. They are:
Merchandising is the topmost core competency. This is where target audience is defined, competitive analysis are made, product pools developed, inventory procedures established, among others.
2. Niche, Positioning, Branding
The catalog must have a well-defined, well executed persona that clearly differentiates them from their competition.
3. The Offer or Proposition
This is where you state what are you willing to give in exchange for a potential customer’s business.
4. Creative Execution: Design, Photography, and Copy
The design, photography, and copy must be handled carefully by someone experienced in merchandising.
5. Color Separations, Printing, Binding, Addressing, and Mailing
This is the final step in the catalog’s creative process. Quality is of utmost concern.
6. New Customer Acquisition
Building the customer list which is critical to a catalog’s success or failure. In the Philippines, this is taken cared of through direct selling using agents.
7. Customer List Communication
Coming up with a strategy of communicating with customers based on history and various segmentation scheme.
Building a good customer database is critical to customer list communication.
Responding to customer’s orders promptly, courteously, and efficiently will be a great differentiator from competition.
10. Testing, Measurement, and Analysis
This is where catalogers come up with strategies to ensure that each catalog will outperform its predecessor.
Schmid’s book has so much knowledge to share and very enlightening to anyone wanting to put up a business in this area. For local e-commerce sites, learning from catalogs can make players better in their offering and strategies.
The book, Creating a Profitable Catalog, is published by McGraw-Hill and available at your local bookstores. Should you have a hard time finding this book, email Jherlie Cheng for assistance.