Trends & Features

Marketing retail in an online environment

Nick Begy, sales and marketing director at, outlines the changes facing 21st century online retail

Mail order can seem that old grandparent of direct marketing: printed catalogues, analysing data to the nth degree, which cold list will disappoint next and what colour will lift response by 0.001per cent on my order form?

But the world has evolved. The consumer understands computers, doesn’t need a piece of paper and in fact finds the internet an exciting and fun way to shop. are embracing this and we’re a forerunner in taking mail order online. The way a consumer wants to purchase is changing, to the detriment of retail in many cases.

The science is different, though in many cases the principles are the same. It’s essential to ensure your website is correctly constructed to allow those search spiders to find you and deliver your ‘shopfront’ to a consumer eager to buy. Combining this with the cut and thrust of pay per click, and the science involved to not only ensure you are top of the list, but you are not spending far more than is actually necessary.

Mail order has to embrace these innovations, regardless of whether your consumer is 18 or 80. The grey market is one of the heaviest users of the net. You may not see those web orders, but they use the net more than any other segment to conduct their research.

Or busy mothers. What better way to shop than have all she needs for the family at her fingertips, without trudging round the shops. As a mail order company in the 21st century, you have to make sure it is you under those fingertips.

The role of the catalogue is changing. We see that it now drives people to our website, where they browse and buy online. In many tests we have undertaken we are seeing that even a simple postcard reminding them we are here in some cases works just as well. It simply means you have to analyse your web customers in a different way and look for different trends and behaviours. It is totally changing the way we segment our base.

In summary, the internet is revolutionising mail order, and mail order will soon be a misnomer. We are now multi-channel retailers, and skill sets need to move on and reflect this change.

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