January 12, 2004, 12:00 AM

Altrec.com’s first-ever catalogs pay for themselves in under three months

Sales from November’s catalog rose 30% over October’s. To further enhance sales, brand positioning and credibility among consumers, Altrec plans a minimum of 4 additional catalog mailings this year.

Sales from the first two catalogs ever distributed by online retailer Altrec.com, mailed in October and November, have already paid for the cost of producing and shipping the catalogs, Mike Morford, Altrec’s CEO, tells Internet Retailer.

 

The 30-page catalogs, which went out in each mailing to what Morford describes as somewhere between “tens of thousands, but under 100,000” Altrec customers, all drawn from the house list, were a seasonal selection representing less than 10% of the products available online at Altrec.com, but in addition to the 800 number, the URL appeared on every two-page spread to drive catalog readers to the web site.

 

But the catalogs also had a purpose beyond immediate sales at Altrec, which sells high-end, high tech outdoors apparel and gear. “Internet companies are still working on building credibility among consumers,” says Morford. “We’re a start-up brand without a 50-year brand to build on. That was a deciding factor in doing the catalogs; to establish more credibility with the consumer and to do brand positioning as to who we are and what authority we bring to the table.”

To keep costs down, Altrec used stock and manufacturers` photography when possible. In-house staff did any additional photography or photo manipulation; list management also was in-house. In addition, the company filtered catalog distribution to those customers in its database that showed the highest propensity to purchase. “We really went after as many safe bets as possible and kept risk factors low. That impacted catalog performance and it also impacted our expenses,” Morford says.

 

Altrec measured catalog performance by sending the catalog only to selected existing customers on whom it had purchase information and then checking their frequency of purchase after they received the catalogs. Specific information on additional sales that may have come from catalogs that were passed on by customers of record to new customers wasn’t captured, he says.

The second catalog, dropped in November, produced 30% more sales than the first catalog. Though Altrec attributes part of that increase to seasonal factors, it considers the catalogs so successful they will become a regular part of the marketing effort. The company expects to do a minimum of four catalog mailings next year, Morford says.

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