Normally by the second week of December my family has a stack of holiday shopping catalogs that is over two feet high. Our longstanding Thanksgiving and Black Friday tradition is to sit down with these catalogs—each person armed with a pad of sticky notes in the color of his or her choice—to mark each item that we want to add to our Christmas wish lists. Every year I find items in these catalogs that I had no idea existed, but some of them make their way to the top of my list!
My son William has participated with his own sticky note color since he was four, and he really enjoys this catalog treasure hunt. So this year when William asked “Where are all of the catalogs?” I started to look around and he had a point. We had very few by Thanksgiving (“Maybe they are coming next week?”), but now it is almost the second week of December and we have fewer than fifteen total catalogs. I asked my husband if he had been surreptitiously throwing them away in an attempt to curtail our holiday tendency to overbuy, but he claims he has not.
Are marketers relying too much on what they can easily measure?
As I think through our catalog dilemma (it truly is a dilemma since we rely on catalogs for gift ideas) I believe I understand why we have been taken off of so many lists. In the past when we ordered from catalogs we would call the 800 number, and the very nice woman on the phone (it is always a woman) would ask us to “identify the ID on the back of your catalog”. With that quick feedback the company knew exactly which catalog prompted us to place our order. But, for the past few years we have instead gone to the company Website printed on the catalog to place our order. We like the email that online ordering instantly generates and also the shipping updates that are automatically sent to us. The only time we provide a catalog number is if it is directly tied to an extra discount or promotion, which is rarely the case.
My family’s buying behavior leads me to wonder, are the companies that market to my family measuring the wrong data? They know that we are ordering online as opposed to calling the 800 number, but are they making the leap that we would rather be marketed to online, or that we are shopping through Internet searches? Do they believe they could more cost effectively market to my family by eliminating the catalog?
Consumers prefer Direct Mail—and not just my family
A new Consumer Most Preferred Channel Study from Epsilon shows that “Fifty percent of U.S. consumers prefer direct mail to email” and “60% said they enjoy checking their physical mailboxes, highlighting an emotional connection to postal mail.” I think that marketers need to balance the data they can acquire against market trend and consumer behavior studies. Or they could simply ask me. I would tell them right away that my family loves the catalogs, and that we are feeling sad to have been cut off so abruptly and without warning.
What are your thoughts on catalogs, Direct Mail, and consumer data in general? As marketers, are we using data that is automatically generated, as opposed to thinking through what we really want to know and doing what is necessary to obtain that data? Please let me know your thoughts—and if you are a marketer, feel free to send your catalogs my way.