More than half of all catalog orders are now being placed online. Not surprisingly, this has led to many marketers eliminating order forms from their print catalogs. But such a move shouldn’t be based solely on saving money or on the percentage of mail orders received. There are other factors to consider.
I recently surveyed 100 different catalogs, in a variety of niches and revenue levels. Nearly half (46%) had no order form at all. Thirty-six percent included an order form printed on page as part of the press run. Only 9% included a bind-in order form with an envelope; 6% of those had inside inkjet imaging.
A similar study about eight years ago had very different results. Almost all of the 150 catalogs looked at had an order form, with about a third printing the order form on a catalog page.
Why to Include an Order Form
The order form complements the catalog. Mail order buyers are conditioned to look in the center of the catalog to find the terms and conditions and other important how-to-order information. Today, catalogers typically receive fewer orders (5% or less) in the mail. Most orders are received over toll-free numbers or online. Older catalog buyers (age 60 and up) tend to use the order form more and often pay by personal check. But an order form is often used throughout the buying process regardless of how the order is actually placed. Many times, the shopper completes the order form first to speed the process even if they plan order by phone or online.
The bind-in order form creates a “hot spot” in the center of the catalog. This is why catalogs position their best-selling products in the center of the book. What’s more, bind-in order forms cause the catalog to feel more substantial to the hand depending on the total page count. A bind-in order form is also more “user friendly” when it comes to encouraging gift orders because of the number of “ship to” spaces normally available on the order form. For catalogers who process a large percentage of gift orders, I’d suggest thinking twice before giving up the order form.
The effectiveness of using an order form—either bind-in or printed-on-page—should be tested before it is simply eliminated. It’s easy to set up a simple A/B split test, or a three-way A/B/C split test—bind-in order form vs. printed on page order form vs. no order form. The control is whatever you are currently doing. Let the actual results guide your decision. Don’t drop the order form just because 5% or fewer of your orders are received by mail.
The true purpose of the bind-in is to provide the customer with all of the information they need to aid the ordering process. Consider everything that factors into the process, including the age of your customers and the number of gift orders you receive before you decide to cut the order form, so you’re doing it for the right reasons.
Stephen R. Lett (email@example.com) is president of Lett Direct Inc.