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Make it easy to order.


Catalog marketing is a perception business. Customers don't feel the goods - they perceive them. The presentation of merchandise in your catalog is important because it's your sole means for evoking the perceptions which convert browsers into buyers.

The order-form insert also is part of the perception. If it's attractive, nonthreatening and easy to use, it will complete the selling process by leading customers through the act of placing an order.

In fact, a carefully planned, properly designed order form can be the most profitable square inches in your catalog. It not only ensures the highest possible response, but can also help streamline your internal order-filling process.

Here are a few tips that can help turn that "order taker" of an order form into a real sales maker.

* MAKE ORDERS EASY TO PROCESS. Make the order-form layout compatible with your order entry and fulfillment systems to streamline the process and get orders to your customers faster. If the entry system is computerized, be sure the information requested is in the same sequence as your computer screens. This will speed order entry and fulfillment, while reducing the possibility of errors. Talk with your current order-entry personnel. Ask them where the trouble spots are on the current form, and listen to their suggestions for improvement.

* KEEP IT CLEAN. Be sure to design your order form to look logical and orderly. Keep it visually open and attractive. Remember, an order form that looks complicated to use is complicated to use. Since ease of response is a primary concern, make certain that your order form visually encourages rather than discourages your customer to place an order.

* DON'T OVERUSE COLOR. Color can clarify a form, but overuse of color can be confusing and distracting. Start with basic black and white. Then highlight important information with additional colors. But don't use so many that you distract the customer's attention. Remember the purpose of the order form is to bring back the order - not to overwhelm your customer with color. (However, there is one way lots of color can stimulate orders: Use it for full-color pictures of merchandise on the insert to which the form is attached.)

* PUT IT WHERE THEY CAN FIND IT. Don't make customers search for the order form. When they've decided to buy, make it easy! Ideally, your order form should be placed in the center spread or used as an outer wrap. In any case, avoid splitting the order form and reply envelope by placing them between signatures.

* ONE STEP AT A TIME. Some catalog companies require a considerable amount of information and detail in their order forms. Rather than risk incorrect entry or missing relevant data, organize the order form by numbering the steps to fill it out. Give your customer instructions on how to complete the form, have the steps follow a logical sequence, and keep recopying to an absolute minimum. A multi-step order form can be easy to fill out if the instructions are clear.

* OFFER OPTIONS FOR PLACING AN ORDER. Some customers prefer mail, while others want the speed of phone or fax. Make the choices obvious with a prominent listing of the methods customers can use. Explain how to use each option and what the advantages of each are. And make that 800 number BIG.

* ENCOURAGE THEM TO PRINT. An order is an order only when you can read it. Do all you can to encourage clear and legible writing. Ask customers to print and then compel them to do so by providing boxes for each letter and numeral.

* LEAVE ROOM TO WRITE. Make the writing areas large enough so your customer can easily fill in all the information. Provide plenty of lines for order items and addresses. Small spaces discourage sales and increase the likelihood of order processing errors. Also, if your customers need more room to write codes and descriptions legibly, make the order form bigger. It's crucial that the order entry staff be able to read the information.

* DATE YOUR PRICES AND YOUR CATALOG. When does the catalog expire? Until what date are the prices valid? Should your customers order from a catalog they know has been around the house for several months? It's helpful to your customers to have the answers to these questions, so state a catalog expiration date.

After that date, refer inquiries for current prices to your customer service department. This will extend the life of your catalog and can encourage the customer to contact you.

* WHAT'S THE PRICE IN TORONTO? If you ship to Canada and abroad, be sure to state that your prices are in U.S. dollars. Failure to do so can have a severe negative impact on your bottom line - so spell out your currency policy very clearly!

* EXPLAIN CREDIT CARD MINIMUMS. To keep customers from using credit cards for small dollar amounts, it's a good idea to give them a minimum amount on credit card orders. Set a credit card minimum that covers your costs, then state it clearly and prominently on your order form.

* FIND OUT WHERE TO SHIP IT. Very often, the item purchased is to be sent to someone other than the person being billed, so it's always a good idea to specifically request a gift address or "ship-to" information. Offer to include a gift card - even one with a personal message; it's an added touch your customers will appreciate.

* PUT SHIPPING AND HANDLING CHARGES ON THE ORDER FORM. Don't psychologically raise the price of the product by placing shipping charges next to item prices or burying them in the prices. It's better to indicate these charges on the order form so they are seen after the purchase decision has been made and the order has been filled out. If shipping charges are based on total sales dollars, number of items purchased or total weight, provide a shipping charge chart on the order form. If shipping charges are a single dollar amount, preprint it right under total sales dollars.

* STATE DELIVERY TIME ON YOUR ORDER FORM. According to several studies, when delivery time is stated in your catalog, it can increase response as much as 25 percent. Restating delivery time on your order form will further reinforce your credibility and build trust. Your customers appreciate knowing when to expect delivery of their orders.

* REINFORCE YOUR GUARANTEE. Developing and maintaining customer confidence is a never-ending job. You should do all you can to reassure your customers that you will do what you say, when you say you will do it.

Be clear about the resources available should the customer fail to be satisfied. Your guarantee, although usually included within the pages of the catalog, should be restated on the order form. This is the final reassurance that you are a reputable and responsible company. Include the handwritten signature of the president to enhance this perception.

* PERSONALIZE YOUR ORDER FORM. Sophisticated catalog marketers have experienced significant gains in response through the use of a personalized order form. A variety of formats are available that make it possible to provide a personalized letter to the prospect and a pre-addressed order form with an attached reply envelope. Consult your printer to get details about the many possibilities available through the use of personalization techniques.

* PUT IMPULSE ITEMS ON THE ORDER FORM. Your order form is the equivalent of a cashier's line, where stores stock impulse items like candy and magazines. Since customers have often made the commitment to buy when they reach the order-form insert, you can gain add-on sales by promoting special impulse items, loss leaders or nominal charge items there. It's even possible to fill these items in at the bottom of the order form, requesting a negative option with a check-off box. Take full advantage of this merchandising space - it can be the most profitable section of your catalog!

One final important tip in this age of increased consumer concern over privacy: The Direct Marketing Association recommends that you give the option of not having a customer's name shared with other companies. This is sound advice - you don't want to lose valuable customers simply for the sake of earning a few cents on selling their names. Offer the privacy option by providing a clear, visible check-off box for selecting. Although few customers actually exercise this option, it is an effective way of expressing your concern for their privacy.

There's no reason your order form has to be dull, difficult, cumbersome or costly to produce. Instead, you can make it attractive and easy to use - and lift response in the process.

For more tips on creating better order forms, Webcraft Technologies offers a free booklet, Order Forms That Get More Orders: 34 Tips for Making Them Work Best. Developed by Webcraft during many years of producing order-form inserts for America's most successful catalog marketers, it's packed with techniques for effective design.

You can request a copy by writing me at: Webcraft Technologies, Inc., Attention: Nancylee Krosner, Enhanced Envelope Sales Manager, Route 1 & Adams Station, P.O. Box 60237, North Brunswick, NJ 08902-0185; by calling (800) 688-0898; or by fax at (908) 9404910.

NANCYLEE KROSNER serves as Enhanced Envelopes Sales Manager for Webcraft Technologies, Inc., the world's largest custom direct response printer. A long-term direct marketing professional, she has nearly 20 years' experience in the development and production of outerwraps, package stuffers, minibooklets and order forms for the U.S. cataloging industry. She can be reached at (800) 688-0898
COPYRIGHT 1996 North American Publishing Company
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1996 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:designing catalog order forms
Author:Krosner, Nancylee
Publication:Target Marketing
Article Type:Cover Story
Date:Jul 1, 1996
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