Monday, November 14, 2011

UR Doin it Rong: Lands' End

Check out this bounty from my mailbox:

The catalog on the left was addressed to me and ran 64 pages.  The catalog on the right was addressed to Amy Mervish and ran 188 pages.  It might help to understand, if you didn’t already know, that Amy a) shares my address and b) is my wife.  In other words, Lands’ End sent similar--but not quite the same--catalogs to our household.

Multiple mailings such as these happen all the time.  They shouldn’t, and not just because extra catalogs kill innocent trees.

As you may know, Lands’ End now belongs to Sears, the company that basically invented the modern catalog.  (Disclosure: in a previous job, I pitched Sears, but did not sufficiently impress them.  Their loss.)  For that matter, in its independent years, Lands’ End greatly evolved catalog marketing as well, helping to move catalogs from a dusty rural/industrial base to a dynamic consumer shopping channel in the 1970s and 1980s.

In both phases of the channel, the general-store-by-post phase and the lifestyle-driven phase, catalog marketers lived and died by smart measurement.  As computer processing power became more available in the 1970s and beyond, they began to accumulate household-level data on their customers.  So Lands’ End, and others, would know that the Rothfeld/Mervish household in apartment 4A had ordered kids’ items and that our neighbors in 4B never had.  Thus, they could send 4A a kids’ catalog and 4B a catalog focused on travel for empty nesters.  

These mailings, in turn, lead to greater efficiency and profit for Lands’ End and other catalogers, since 4B doesn’t get the kids’ gear catalog and we don’t get the travel catalog (disclosure: we ain’t goin’ nowhere).  Extra catalogs mean more cost and hence less profit.

Data vendors offer a service called householding, which identifies residents of the same address who are related to one another, which allows the marketers to reach the same families with fewer mailings.  Why Sears has not availed themselves of this service I cannot answer.

Unless it’s a deliberate strategy:

Good grief.

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