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Sharper Image catalog bucks the e-commerce trend with… Post-it notes?

By Ben Ames | January 15, 2019 | 6:14 PM

Conventional wisdom in retail circles holds that e-commerce is displacing traditional paper catalog sales in part because it allows stores to target individual consumers with tailored product recommendations generated by their buying histories.

However, fans of the specialty toy and personal goods catalog “The Sharper Image” may have noticed that this winter’s holiday edition departed from that narrative.

Instead of mailing its typical compilation of gadgets and gizmos, the “Holiday Preview 2018” version included a special twist. Thanks to modern printing technology, the catalog included virtual, digital “Post-it notes” superimposed over various pages, transforming the generic catalog into a list of personalized pitches. IMG_1954

The note on the cover read “Welcome back! Look for this note inside for personalized recommendations based on your past purchases.” Curiosity raised, I flipped to an inside page and found other digital sticky notes reading “CHECK this out!” or “you deserve THIS!” scrawled in a computer font suggesting handwritten script, as if a friend had bookmarked the catalog to highlight thoughtful suggestions.

In my version, a wireless TV speaker selling for $149.99 was marked with a digital note reading “You need this!” while a multi-surface cordless mop listed at $179.99 bore the tag “order it today!” (The note did not answer my deeper question, which is to ask whether normal mops aren’t ALREADY both multi-surface and cordless, and cost considerably less than $179.99).

A surround sound shower system worth $99.99 was marked “take a look!” while a $129.99 smart sensing digital ultrasonic humidifier said “exclusively for you!” and a $99.99 premium innovative defrosting tray was tagged “your new favorite!”

The e-commerce revolution is probably here to stay, notwithstanding The Sharper Image’s clever marketing ploy. After all, online retailing offers a host of other competitive benefits over mail-order fulfillment, such as faster home delivery speeds for orders, an exoneration of the postal fees needed to mail the volumes, and the agility to instantly update inventory and prices.

Still, the approach marked a clever way to push back again a dominant school of thought, showing that logistics practitioners will probably always be adjusting to new sales modes and strategies.

… and in case you’re curious, I did not order any of the curated goods described above. Drop me a line if you want to share a product review of that magical mop.





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