White Plains, N.Y.—Catalogers today are facing extreme competition from an Internet filled with “faux specialists” and e-commerce sites selling their top products, according to Terry Jukes, president of multichannel marketing consultancy B2B Direct Marketing Intelligence, in kicking off the annual MeritDirect Co-op conference for business mailers on July 14.
It's only through differentiating themselves on service, sales and products—on being superb merchants, in short—that catalogers can succeed, Jukes said in his opening keynote.
“In the early days of putting out catalogs, customers could find breadth and depth all in one place,” Jukes said. “But that's been eroded by Google. So-called specialists are everywhere, and margins are down.”"
One key solution, Jukes said, is new-product development.
“New products have higher margins and help customer retention,” Jukes said. A continually refreshed product lineup also helps marketers compete against small e-commerce sites, which he called “net gnats.”
“Those guys are "box movers,' selling just your top products,” Jukes said. “They'll always beat you price, so you have to be different.”
Among other recommendations, Jukes urged that sales reps who take inbound calls be allowed to spend plenty of telephone time addressing customer needs and establishing relationships. He also advised companies to integrate phone, Web and email tactics in support of catalogs; and to extend thought-leader knowledge through the use of blogging and online article-distribution channels.
“There is now an excruciating focus on doing the right things perfectly,” Jukes said, of the catalog business. “Don''t try to do too much, but do focus on what separates you from all other options on the Web.”