So Victoria’s Secret has unveiled a new plan that dumps their catalog (WSJ April 8). Their new strategic plan says they are “evolving how the business connects with customers through more focus on loyalty programs and brand-building engagement rather than traditional catalogues and offers.”
In the past they mailed 350 million catalogs annually, sending out up to 22 mailings a year. Analysts estimate the company will save $100 million by eliminating catalogs, but worry the move would hurt sales.
It probably will. J.C. Penney eliminated their catalog in 2010 and brought it back in 2015.
There is a temptation by catalogers and other marketers to think their business will survive just dandy by eliminating the cost of printed materials. The problem is, you’ve got to have a mechanism to bring customers back to the website or retail store. Email can do some of it. Social media might result in a few clicks.
But it’s the printed piece, whether a catalog or direct mail, that is proven over and over to bring customers back with the highest ROI.
Long-term memory. Digital channels like email and social media are glance and forget channels. You’ll get clicks, of course, and orders will be generated. But the vapor of the digital message goes away in an instant. Printed material is proven to prompt more sales.
We’ll see what happens to Victoria’s Secret. I hope they survive, and they probably will. But at a fraction of the company they were before killing the catalog.