Low-Tech Paper and Ink, and the Customer Experience


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I penned “Customer Intelligence Is Meaningless If You Don’t Tie It to Strategic Action” many years ago.  Over time that article has been used by several organizations in their training materials as a way of demonstrating the importance of customer service and its impact on the customer experience.  One aspect of that article that is rarely commented on, but no less interesting, is the action I took related to my search for a local service supplier when my incumbent vendor did not satisfy my needs. The action line from that original story reads:

“At this point I let my fingers do the walking through the Yellow Pages….”

Notice that I did not say…

“At this point I called my neighbor to see who they used for their appliance repair and followed up with the company they recommended.”

And I did not say…

“At this point I got online, and did a search for a local appliance repair shop.”

Yes, both could have happen.  In fact, if you read my story you may have been shocked that I even mentioned print Yellow Pages in my quest to find a new service provider.  And no doubt the modified quotes above would have been more colorful in demonstrating the power of word-of-mouth marketing and online search.  The truth of the matter is that I really did pull out my phone directory.  It was fast, easy and helped me complete my task.  But I’m not here to defend the print phone book.  What caught my attention today was the Wall Street Journal article “Catalog Makes a Comeback at Penny.”  Take a look at this passage from the article:

“The move highlights an oddity of the digital age.  While shoppers are increasingly buying everything from shoes to sofas to cars over the Internet, they still like browsing through the decidedly low-tech artifacts of page and ink.”

What does this mean for retail marketers?   Because I’m sure there are some who would classify catalogs as (junk mail) wasteful, unwanted, and a drain on our landfills.  Well, it doesn’t change the importance of your search engine optimization, or social media word-of-mouth marketing initiatives.  However; it does suggest that there are still situations and strategies that work very well for print advertising.  It’s interesting to note the article points out that “31% of shoppers have a catalog with them when they make an online purchase.”  That means print often delivers an important type of experience at a critical point of the consumer buying cycle.  So, if you want them to hit the purchase button, you may need to reconsider old fashion print in your marketing mix.



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