My World Right Now

About a year ago, I wrote a post called Cataloging Time. It’s that time again in my world of retail marketing. Once again, I have to ask whether or not catalogs are a marketing tactic that is past its prime.

As the retail marketing person for a consumer goods company, I am responsible for making sure our product pages are prepared for any number of retailer catalogs being published for 2011. This can be master catalogs or supplements for specific categories, each one requiring a great deal of time and resource allocation to complete. I can only imagine the efforts by our retail partners who are receiving and compiling dozens and dozens of pages from product manufacturers around the world. What a task!

As a consumer and marketing professional, I receive catalogs and look through each and every one of them for ideas and creative brainstorming. I have to wonder how many other people do the same? Is the practice of reading catalogs still a common practice?

I especially ask this in today’s world of social media. Twitter accounts like Walmart direct consumers to websites for new product information on a regular basis. More and more time is spent fine-tuning and tweaking those same sites to ensure the right information is presented for consumers to make purchasing decisions. Product comparisons, search filters and so much more is made available online that cannot be easily handled in print catalogs.

While I’m spending a lot of time on those printed catalogs pages, another current project is implementing an e-commerce solution for our company where we can easily sell our products online to our BtoB customers as well as consumers. I wonder whether or not this is a better use of our time and resources?

We as a manufacturer have a gentleman’s agreement with our retail partners that we will only sell certain accessories directly to consumers. Everything else is pushed to retailers and consumers are directed to find a local store in which to make their purchase. Does this make sense in today’s business environment?

This is where my head is right now. Any thoughts?

Cataloging Time

Wow! Time flies between blog posts if I’m not careful. I realized this morning that I hadn’t written anything in more than a week. Since my time the last few weeks has been spent working on catalog pages for the various retailers my company works with, I figured I would take a few minutes and share my thoughts on tactical execution of marketing programs. Why are certain tactics selected year after year and yet have limited return on the time and money spent to develop and distribute materials?

Courtesy of Google Images

Courtesy of Google Images

National retailers, for example, have depended on printed catalogs for many decades. Hundreds of thousands are delivered to homes around the world. As a child, I remember receiving the Sears Christmas catalog or Toys R Us supplements and pouring over them for hours. Pages would be dog-eared and passed on to my grandparents for Christmas or birthday gift ideas. But the question I have is whether or not catalogs remain a staple in the consumer world?

Considering the amount of time I’ve spent developing content and design for just a few pages, I can’t help but think about the time spent on the retailers’ side — combining all products and manufacturers into a book that makes sense to the consumer and will earn the best response in sales. But then I wonder about the web pages and store fronts where thousands of visitors each day browse and buy product from those same manufacturers. Is the amount of time and money spent developing catalogs really worth it? Or is this just another case of continuing a tradition just because that’s the way it’s always been, and it’s really not necessary?

Here are a few posts that have additional thoughts — Catalogs Still A Valuable Tool, Even in Internet Age, Glossy Catalogs Still Lure Shoppers. I’m actually torn. I see both sides of the need but am interested in your thoughts. Please share.

The World of Retail Marketing

Working in a retail marketing position has forced me to ask a pretty basic question in our organization. “Who is our customer?” Unfortunately, the internal answer is not clear cut. I have found that there are two groups: one views the retailers, dealers and distributors who we sell through as our customer; the second views consumers as our key customers.

Personally, I’m a proponent for the latter. While very important to the business, I believe the retailers, dealers and distributors are facilitators for us to sell our products. We need them to help us get our products into the hands of valuable consumers, but they are not what I would call the most important audience for us to reach. That disctinction should fall to the consumer. Without consumers who choose to spend their hard-earned money on our products, we would not be successful or able to sustain our business.

My question, however, remains. In an organization that views the designated sales channels as our main customer, does that mean that the consumer doesn’t matter? Does that affect business strategies and the overall marketing approach? Should it?

From my experience, it does affect strategy … but not in a good way.

With a consumer-based business, the marketing strategies used should be centered on ensuring that the entire experience that the consumer has with our company is positive. We should want him or her to return and spread the good word about our company and product. In a channel-based business, my experience has shown that budget dollars are allocated toward identifying ways to train sales associates but not much more. Promotional dollars are spent on dealer discounts versus consumer rebates.

One thing I can say about my experiences on the business to consumer side of the marketing world, I have changed my perspective on brands to which I choose to be loyal. I want to use and buy products that appear to value the end consumer.

The challenge for me is to strengthen my advocacy for the consumer within the company. Being the voice of the consumer is a critical part of ensuring the future of our organization is strong.