Inspiring new users is key to home shopping survival

There’s going to be about 2 billion extra pounds in the home shopping basket over the next three years, according to analysts Corporate Intelligence on Retailing.

That adds up to a total of 12.5bn of consumer and business-to-business goods and services bought from the comfort of the armchair – or workstation. Indeed, over half of British adults have bought something by mail order in the past six months and the figures will rise.

But guess what? Despite acres of coverage, only a small proportion is through e-commerce or other forms of digital media. Some estimates put it at only two per cent.

And logic dictates the rest of this new money isn’t solely made up of the highly professional Freemans and Littlewoods that have made the “time rich, cash poor” niche their own.

So where’s the growth coming from? Traditional magazine catalogues, some of which are beginning to target customers who do not normally shop in this way.

They are the stressed out, “cash rich, time poor” consumers we have been hearing about over the past few years.

The professional ABC1 men and women have high earning jobs, but work long hours and have a lot of pressure on their leisure time. They want to shop – but not necessarily in shopping centres on a Saturday afternoon or late night Thursday. They are too busy for that.

Home shopping is a godsend for them, especially if the transaction encompasses something they already like doing – such as browsing through what is, in effect, a giant lifestyle magazine. And the best of the new generation of targeted catalogues are exactly like that, with the sales function attached. These catalogues are more enjoyable than sitting at a PC with your mouse in hand, especially if you spend all day at work sitting at your PC, mouse in hand.

This consumer pull, coupled with a retailer push away from the pressurised margins of the high street, where factors such as site inflation are making even larger branded retailers think about different routes to market, means home shopping will be driven by this new breed of catalogue.

In the US, 44bn is spent with catalogue companies. It seems you can get anything by targeted catalogue in the States, from pasta to taxidermy supplies.

The situation isn’t quite the same in the UK. But one key lesson should be learned. The catalogues with strong personalities, creative branding, customer-focused editorial and powerful direct response salesmanship, will survive and prosper.

Why? Because these products are backed by companies which recognise the importance of inspiring readers and turning them into long-term customers. Companies which achieve this will recruit new customers, increase their revenues and strengthen their brand. The ones that don’t will, clearly, fail.

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