A cataloger of Celtic merchandise, GaelSong has been enjoying impressive year-on-year growth. For September alone, combined catalog and online sales were up 26% from the previous September; August sales were up nearly 22% from the previous year. And the company achieved this lift not by implementing cutting-edge Web 3.0 technology or launching splashy social media campaigns. Rather, says vice president/general manager Tom Steele, “We started this 14 months ago with just good old-fashioned analytics and merchandising.”
Last autumn, to rev up growth for 2010, GaelSong conducted a classic RFM (recency/frequency/monetary value) analysis across its merchandise categories. The numbers showed that “certain categories seemed to be underserved and overperforming,” Steele says. For instance, apparel buyers bought more frequently than the average GaelSong customer, and they spent appreciably more—an average of $156 per order compared with the overall average order value of $82. Yet clothing accounted for just 3% of the GaelSong merchandise mix.
It was little wonder, then, that according to cooperative database overlays and Website analysis, other retailers were reaping a larger share of these customers’ apparel expenditures. In short, GaelSong was unable to meet its customers’ demand for clothing, so those shoppers were spending their apparel budgets elsewhere.
The solution, to add more apparel to the merchandise range, was not as simple as one might think, however. “It’s easy to stick a shamrock on a glass and say it’s Celtic,” explains GaelSong founder Colleen Connell. “It’s much more difficult with apparel. For me as the merchant, it’s a matter of finding something where the Celtic component is integral to the product.” Beyond the obvious Irish and Scottish knitwear, “it’s an intuitive thing of figuring out what a person who likes Celtic design would like to wear in the summer”—balmy climes and unadulterated sunshine being the exception rather than the rule of summertime in the British Isles.
Connell managed to source enough suitable apparel, though, so that the category accounted for 6% of the merchandise in the spring 2010 catalog. But that wasn’t the only change to the book. Pagination was reorganized by product category, so that leafing through the catalog was less of “a treasure hunt,” Steele says. Because it’s now simpler to find what one is looking for, people are buying more items across categories, leading to more items and a higher dollar amount per order.
Customers are also spending more time with the catalog, not just because it’s organized more efficiently but also because of the addition of sidebars on topics related to Celtic history and lifestyle. “We added more coffee-table value to the book to hopefully help it hang around [recipients’ homes] a little longer,” Steele says.
The changes produced a 13% rise in spring catalog sales and led GaelSong to redesign its Website as well, “to reflect the new look and feel and editorial bent of the redesigned catalog,” Steele says. Visitors can navigate by product categories as well as by themes (including Celtic Wedding, Dragons, and The Tree of Live). This resulted in an 11% rise in the average time spent by visitors on the site and contributed to continued double-digit sales growth.
In the autumn catalog, apparel accounted for 13% of the product mix, contributing to the 26% jump in September sales. “I think today so many catalogers are looking to technology and social media to save them,” Steele notes. “We’re growing organically.”
Not that GaelSong eschews social media altogether. It has nearly 4,000 friends of its Facebook page, and Connell plans to launch a Facebook contest in which it will ask fans to interpret the cover of its Samhain, or Halloween, catalog. And in the spring, it will “put together a collection of folks you might call bloggers focusing on aspects of the Celtic lifestyle,” she says. “We found that people are really responsive to anything we ask, like how they incorporate the Celtic aspects into their lifestyle.”
The revamping of GaelSong’s catalog and ecommerce site, in fact, has resulted in what many brands consider the goal of social media. “It made it easier for us to establish a deeper connection with our customers rather than slamming them with [message after message] saying, Please buy our stuff,” Steele says. Though happily for GaelSong, that deeper connection has resulted in, well, customers buying more of their stuff.