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Online marketing has proved to be an efficient tool not only in communicating a company’s corporate vision and strategy, but also when it came to reinforcing the brand’s strength acquired through its reputation and name (Bergstrom, 2000). Moreover, by having the choice of both time and location for browsing the company’s website, the online medium provides the clientele with the freedom of them being the ones managing the intercommunication (Foster, Gallagher, and Parsons, 2001).
On the other hand, print catalogues still offer companies the opportunity of physically placing advertisements into the hands of possible clients. Compared to the online medium, the communication remains visible post-delivery, making it more difficult for the customers to fail in remembering or to disregard the campaign’s message (Blanchard, 2009). In comparison, electronic catalogues are considered passive and require being advertised (Kotler & Armstrong, 1991).
The increased significance and role of the Internet in today’s business world has raised the issue of the effectiveness of online advertising in comparison with printed catalogs. According to Foster, Gallaghter and Parsons (2001), there are no major differences in terms of efficiency in the case of the two mediums of message communication. However, according to Blanchard (2009), the traditional printed approach to direct marketing lacks efficiency, with maximum levels of response reaching 3%, the rest until 100% being thrown away. Therefore, sending printed catalogues by traditional mail to possible clients with high prospects of responding while utilizing direct mail to obtain permission of continuing the marketing interaction through electronic mediums could reduce the inefficiency to less than 50%. Thus, a lot of businesses have understood the benefits of cross media marketing, and that the combination of printed catalogs (offline) and online advertisement is most likely to result in a higher overall effectiveness of a marketing campaign and less waste.
A remarkably cost-effective manner of using cross media marketing is addressing a target market and attracting it into receiving e-mail correspondence on a regular basis with attractive content such as special promotions, therefore, transforming the offline interaction into the online one.
In the case of a printed catalog, the company initiates the dialogue, while in the case of a web site this is the client that triggers it. This is probably the main reason why direct marketers have realized that printed and online mediums should not be viewed as competitors, but rather as complementary marketing tools. For example, printed catalogs might attract customers into making an online purchase, situation in which they do not act as separate entities, but as two media working together.
2.1 The Direct Marketing Strategy of Neiman Marcus
Brendan Hoffman, the president of Neiman Marcus’s retail Internet site, claims that although printed catalogs are increasingly costly, they serve their purpose for the luxury retail department stores. According to Lee & Johnson (2005), approximately 3 million American customers anxiously anticipate the company’s Christmas printed catalog. Although the company achieves its sale targets through their Internet site, this is because of the use of direct mail that the clients are actually stimulated to visit the NeimanMarcus.com online store. Even in the eventuality that the customers would throw out the physical catalogs, they have served their purpose of attracting the customer on the Neiman Marcus online platform (Knowledge@Wharton, 2008).
2.2 Victoria’s Secret’s Direct Marketing Strategy
Sharen Turney, a former Neiman Marcus employee, who now holds the position of President of Victoria’s Secret Megabrand & Intimate Apparel, was appointed President of the company’s catalogue and e-commerce branch, Victoria’s Secret Direct, in the year 2000. In spite of following the Information Age frenzy trend, the newly appointed President and her fellow workers managed to withstand the appealing option of creating a distinct VS entity specifically for the online company, in other words, to treat the mediums as two separate entities competing with each other (printed catalogue versus web site). Alternatively, they made the choice of keeping the media tool within Victoria’s Secret Direct, opting for an integrated cross marketing program that would reinforce the brand more efficiently than a distinct online presence. Therefore, even as web-based marketing started to propagate, numerous businesses launched both offline and offline communication channels.
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2.3 Land End’s Direct Marketing Strategy
Another example of successful integration is the Land’s End catalog apparel company. The company is a highly regarded business in terms of innovation in the field of direct marketing, being the first to provide a toll-free customer service number 33 years ago. After conducting an extensive market research, the company’s segment target turned out to consist of secondary educated, high-income individuals who typically own a personal computer and for whom the probability of having an established internet connection was double than in comparison to the rest of the population. According to the Free Encyclopedia of Ecommerce, as early as 16 years ago, detecting the online medium as a promising complementary promotion channel to their printed catalog, the company proceeded to launching their Internet site. Accordingly, in 1998, the Land’s End online store has realized sales of 18 million dollars.
LandsEnd.com enabled customers to put together their own combination of clothes and apparel, while also creating 3D representations of their body shape in order to determine which piece of clothing fits them better. Furthermore, LandsEnd.com gave the company’s clients the opportunity of also setting-up their own online accounts through which they could retain billing and shipping details in order to centralize the forthcoming online acquisitions. Going even further, in 1999, the company launched an online-based approach which provided the customers with real-time personalized non-stop support (24/7). From that point on, the store has developed into an online retail site that envisions excellence. According to the Free Encyclopedia of Ecommerce, 2001 figures show online sales of 218 million dollars, representing almost 20% of Lands' End Inc.’s receipts. Although the website brings significant contribution to the business, with approximately 20% online contributions, it is obvious that the Internet is not the only direct marketing channel utilized.
In the case of all of the companies considered in the discussion, the direct marketers are associated with each of the three businesses, Victoria’s Secret, Neman Marcus, and Land’s End, all took the strategic decision of not treating their printed catalogs and web sites as separate competing businesses. Instead, the companies all used their printed catalogs to complement one another as part of their direct marketing efforts.
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