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My wife, Helena, buys all the clothes and gifts in our family. She is a catalog freak. She recently spent $35,000 on catalog items in 1 year. She does extensive research in the catalogs to nd exactly what she
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wants. Once she has selected the items, she usually orders by phone, but occasionally she orders over the Web. Almost every one of the catalogs has both a toll-free number and a Web site. She rarely uses the Web sites. She uses them only as an ordering device, once she has found what she wants in the catalog. This squares with Sears Canada s experience: 92 percent of Canadian customers buying from the Sears Canada Web site have the paper catalog in front of them. Why doesn t Helena use the Web sites as a shopping medium She enjoys reading catalogs. They are a form of relaxation, like reading a magazine. She does not nd sitting at a computer relaxing. She cannot count on the colors on our PC being as true as the colors in the catalogs It takes too long to nd items on a Web site. She can nd a sweater or dress that she wants in a catalog in a few seconds. On the Web, waiting for page after page to download is simply a waste of her time. She can sit on the sofa and ip through catalogs. She can take them to the kitchen or the bathroom. You can t do any of these things on the Web. Talking to an operator is much more satisfying than ordering on the Web. Helena likes talking to people. The operators seem to know when things are out of stock and can make helpful suggestions for substitutes. Most Web sites don t tell you that the item is out of stock and very rarely make alternative suggestions So why does she use the Web at all Because she hates to be put on hold when she calls an operator. It is the result of desperation, not a choice. More and more customers are placing catalog orders on the Web. Most catalogers have already put all their catalog items on their Web sites, so that customers can look at them and place orders. But the Web is not replacing the paper catalogs. In fact, it seems to be increasing them. In 1995, 13.2 billion catalogs were mailed in the United States. By 2000, despite the growth in Web catalog sites, the number of paper catalogs
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distributed had grown to 16 billion. By 2001, about 11 percent of catalog sales were placed through the Web.
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The Web is an excellent ordering medium. You never get put on hold. Each year more people learn to use the Web. Some catalogers estimate that by 2005 they may have 35 percent of their orders placed through the Web. The Web, however, does not seem to be an effective sales medium. Very few of the orders that arrive at a catalog Web site come from people who were simply browsing the Web. What brings the visitors is the arrival of the paper catalog. Once they had built their catalog Web site, many catalogers tried to use advertising, mailed promotions, and af liate programs to bring people to the Web site to shop. However, the increase in sales seldom paid for the cost of the promotions. The catalogers discovered that the paper catalog itself is the only really effective way to drive customers to their Web sites. So since they still need the catalog, why do catalogers bother to have a Web site at all There are many valid reasons: Reduced ordering costs. It costs a cataloger $4 or more to take an order over the telephone. Orders placed through the Web have a variable cost of a few pennies. Saving $4 per order can make a big difference. Email communications. Catalogers have found that they can improve the response to a catalog by using email to notify customers of its imminent arrival. They can also use their database of previous purchases to ag certain items for customers attention in an email with a click here inside it that jumps the customer to the item in the Web catalog. To use email communications, however, the cataloger must have people s email names. Email name capture. All catalog Web sites insist on receiving the customer s email name as part of the transaction. At the same time, they permit the customer to opt out to receiving emails concerning future product promotions. A vast majority of customers do not say No to this question, thereby providing permission for use of their email for commercial messages. At the same time, this permission also involves the placement of a cookie on the customer s computer.
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