Dear Red Envelope

I read through the Red Envelope catalog Sunday morning. I was in the kitchen with a hot cup of coffee enjoying the quiet. A light snow was falling outside and I had the house to myself. You had my undivided attention. Pretty much the perfect scenario for catalog shopping.

The cover didn’t really interest me. “Wishful Gifting” sounds too much like wishful thinking, and “Grant a wish with a gift that’s personal” is awkward, like some great copy ideas got strung together and overworked until that line seemed like it made sense. Aren’t all gifts personal? Just because you want me to think “personalize” when you say “personal”, doesn’t mean I will. Personal products and personalized products bring to mind two very different things. Anyway, whatever, it’s just a cover line. Let’s get back to the catalog.

Red-Envelope-Cover Red-Envelope-page2Red-Envelope-page

I loved the design (so pretty), and I was happily flipping through right up until I found something I wanted to buy, and then there just wasn’t enough information, like how big the item was. Product name, SKU and price—that’s all. But I’m a customer, so I knew there was copy online. Of course I had to put down my catalog, abandon my coffee, go find my iPad, and then go to the red envelope site. I googled the url because it didn’t appear on the bottom of the spread (Sigh.) It’s a good thing I’m already a customer, because I might have thought that Red Envelope was just a retail store and stopped shopping. See retailers are the ones who don’t provide product details and who don’t show a URL because they want you to go to the store. But I’m a customer, so I knew about the website, and google didn’t let me down. I didn’t click on the Red Envelope ad I saw first, which would have cost you money. (You’re welcome.) And when I got to the site, which showed me new items I hadn’t seen before, offered me discounts, and pulled my attention away from the thing I wanted to know more about, I stayed strong, and focused, and typed the item number for the $195 personalized tote on page, (crap, no page numbers either) into the search box. Took a victory sip of now tepid coffee and got a message that said the item didn’t exist. Cognizant of my own inability to type before my second cup of coffee, (and read 7 pt. reverse type without cheaters) I tried again. Same result. At that moment, even though I’m a customer, and I liked the item, I stopped shopping. I wasn’t having fun anymore. My idyllic morning was shot. The house had woken up, I had company in the kitchen, and breakfast to make, and life had moved on. The window of opportunity for you to make that sale had closed. This is why ease of shopping matters—really, really matters.

Here’s my wish list for Red Envelope in 2015.

1. Worry less about how you look and more about how you can help others, and by others I mean me, your customer.

2. Don’t assume I know stuff. I’m busy, help me out. Put things where I expect to find them.

3. Talk to me. I like you, but the no copy thing makes it hard to spend time with you, and I feel a little stupid.

4. Don’t ask so much of me. Asking me to stop what I’m doing, find a way to go online, type, and then shop again is asking a lot. My coffee got cold.

5. Make type easy to read. I didn’t notice the tiny 6pt URL, reversed out of the image, in the box, on the side of the page, until I scanned it for this post. Seriously, I have 20/20 vision and that was a squinty, squint squint moment. If your designers are under 30 they believe 7 pt type is just fine. They won’t believe that when they’re over 40.

6. Keep up the great merchandise!

All the best,
Your Customer

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The Catalog Blog covers opinions and information on all things catalog. Have something to add? Leave a comment below. Catalog University is devoted to helping you get ahead in the fun and fascinating world of catalogs. If you want even more information about cataloging, including FREE Pub Talks, be sure to sign up for the Cat-U mailing list. We will never share your name with 3rd parties.

Sarah Fletcher
President/Creative Director Catalog Design Studios Inc.
Co-Founder Catalog University