Catalog and Direct Selling: Improve Your Catalog Inch by Inch
Find creative gems in a SQUINCH.
Successful catalogers know how powerful a square-inch analysis (SQUINCH) can be, but few analyze anything beyond a merchandising plan. In truth, once the data has been placed into a SQUINCH format, incredible nuggets can be gleaned from different reports that can shape your creative efforts. The following is a checklist of the obvious and not-so-obvious gems waiting to be found in your SQUINCH.
1. Build powerful cover treatments by taking advantage of your best-selling products, especially those that garner high demand. With seconds to grab attention and draw customers into your catalog, use best sellers on your covers, not for the 2 percent of the customers who already purchased the product, but for the 98 percent that didn’t even see it. This goes for your back cover as well.
2. Allocate space according to profitability. This applies to both product categories as well as specific products. When dissecting a SQUINCH by category, you can develop a macro plan for allocating space. If a product category is producing 20 percent of your profit, then it should get at least 20 percent or more of the allocated space.
3. Similarly, you’ll want to allocate placement according to profitability. Like space allocation, a SQUINCH will determine where to place products and categories within the hot spots of your catalog.
4. Use squinch to determine how many pages your catalog should have. This can be determined by creating an analysis by page. Rule of thumb—if at least 75 percent of your pages are profitable, consider increasing your page count. Conversely, if less than 75 percent are profitable, consider reducing the number of pages.
The Not So Obvious
1. Feature the right options. For example, if you’re selling a frame offered in three types of wood, and mahogany consistently outperforms the other options, then feature mahogany. Place the other two in an inset, giving them less space.
2. Take advantage of preferred price points customers respond to. Within each category, a SQUINCH will determine an “average price sold.” This dynamic should not be ignored. Customers are telling you that this is a price point they are comfortable with.
For example, if you’re selling food gifts and your average price sold is $45 in the basket category, consider featuring basket gifts within 20 percent of that price point or in hot spots throughout the catalog. Be sure to analyze this by category (the more homogenous, the better) keeping in mind that a few high or low price points may skew the average price sold.
3. Find the products that attract and feature them. While the rule of thumb is to not place new, unproven products in hot spots, you could be ignoring evidence that proves otherwise. A thorough analysis will tell you specific features that attract your customers.
For instance, if you know that silk mock turtlenecks always sell well and that black is a preferred color in the apparel category, you have a good indicator that a new silk mock turtleneck in black has pretty good potential. Take a chance and feature this new product in a promising location.
4. Create engaging stories in your catalog based on analysis. If specific product themes consistently score at the top, create themed, relevant stories as catalog spreads. This is a proven technique that not only will stop the eye, but will pull customers in and encourage linger time. So, if a SQUINCH analysis tells you that teapots always sell well, why not build an entire spread around the art of making tea? Feature teapots, but sell the story with related accessories, such as a variety of tea flavors or a unique tea recipe.
5. Consider sorting your SQUINCH by a special creative feature. Many catalogs have used this powerful technique to guide important creative decisions. In the apparel category, customers might expect and respond to a certain type of model; use this information to guide your model selection (i.e., color of hair, ethnicity, size).
Mary Engelbreit is an artist who licenses her designs for product development—she has six distinct, popular designs. By creating a SQUINCH sorted by those six designs, the direct marketing creative team knows which designs to feature. So, in this case, a product sort will tell you not only which products to feature, but also which design will garner the most response.
6. Find opportunities to create a prospect version of your catalog. By creating an analysis of what first-time buyers purchase versus repeat customers, you might discover distinct buying behaviors. While it’s not always profitable to create an entire prospect catalog, you can create an inexpensive cover or outer four-page version. When reviewing this type of analysis, always look at demand over profitability to entice prospects to try out your most popular products. However, if you can select popular and profitable products, even better!
7. Measure the success of editorial sidebars. For instance, catalogers have learned that using non-selling, but relevant content alongside a product or product grouping engages customers emotionally, creating a buying atmosphere and enhancing the brand. Most catalogers allocate editorial space evenly across all products, but if the editorial content is closely related to a specific merchandise concept or product, it might make sense to allocate the given space accordingly. If the results do not look good, review the content and make sure it was engaging and, most of all, relevant to the products on that spread.
Also, keep in mind that in some cases, editorial sidebars consistently displayed throughout a catalog are there to support the overall brand message. So, allocating them to one product may not be a fair assessment.
Are you taking advantage of your SQUINCH analysis? Are you just using it in a single dimension—perhaps by product only? As you can see, this powerful tool can be used in many ways depending on your merchandise category and concept. While it’s always a worthwhile tool for guiding merchandisers and pagination, it packs just as much power when guiding your creative efforts.
Lois Boyle is president of J. Schmid & Associates, Shawnee Mission, KS. You can reach her by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.