1-800-Batteries Uses Customer Feedback to Update Catalog

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Convenience is the theme of the newly revamped 1-800-Batteries catalog as graphs and Internet programs further ease the ordering process and tips scattered throughout the book help professionals save money and avoid problems as they travel.


The book, which carries the tag line "Gear Up & Go," came about based on feedback from customers.


"As a direct marketing company, we pay a lot of attention to what our customers tell us through surveys and through our Web site," said CEO and founder Ken Hawk. "Our customers told us we give them more freedom and free time. 'Gear Up & Go' speaks of the benefits, where our old tag line, 'Batteries and Tools for Mobile Professionals,' just said what we sell."


Among the features adding convenience to the new catalog, which dropped earlier this summer, is an easier-to-read index listing all the corresponding accessories that are available for specific computer notebooks and cellular phones. Accessories are color coded with symbols so they are easily recognized. The company also has started volume discounts for purchases of five items or more.


For some corporate clients, a special version of the company's Web site, complete with further discounts, is available. The special site lets company employees order directly from 1-800-Batteries and avoid the sometimes lengthy process of filing purchasing orders with the purchasing department. Purchasing departments are able to track the purchases made by employees.


In exchange for agreeing to have the entire company purchase from 1-800-Batteries through participation in the Web purchasing program, the client company automatically receives discounts. Further discounts also are available once companies reach certain volume levels. The program, which debuted last month, is working successfully with its first client, a large telecommunications company. The cataloger is in talks with three other companies interested in the program.


The new catalog includes more products, including the hand-held electronic organizer Nino 300 and a lightweight numeric keypad popular with accountants that plugs into almost any keyboard/mouse port. Hawk said the company receives more than 50 requests each day for specific products.


Meanwhile, Mobile Gear Tips scattered throughout the book include battery life-saving ideas, such as decreasing the brightness control on your screen or choosing black-and-white mode; cost-saving tips, such as using a prepaid telephone card from local providers to call from pay phones rather than using hotel phones; and tips to avoid communications problems, such as a reminder to configure your computer modem while traveling abroad.


While some of the changes took more space, the book remained the same size -- 48 pages -- because a border was eliminated from many pages that freed up an extra 4 percent of space per page.


So far, the changes seem to be working as early results show a 30 percent increase in sales. New items have been strong sellers, and the reorganized index has generated positive feedback and contributed to a 26 percent increase in order size.


"Not only have people told us they liked it, but we've seen a difference in the number of SKUs per order and in the order size," Hawk said.


While the recent book was designed differently, the mail strategy remained substantially the same, said Hawk, who noted that the catalog mails five to six times a year with mailings averaging 1 million in size.


The company's client base is an even mix of consumer and business-to-business clients. Although it traditionally used ads to prospect for consumer customers, it has stepped up its testing of consumer lists after initial tests found that method was successful.


The next issue of the catalog, due out the second week of September, will stick to the new format, but will be mailed to more than one million and will be 52 pages in length to accommodate more of the merchandise requests from customers.
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