Time to Give Up Your Bind-in Order Form/Envelope?

by Stephen Lett

If you are like most catalogers, you have either discussed giving up the use of a bind-in order form with envelope or, you have already eliminated it. There is a definite trend to eliminate the bind-in order form/envelope typically found in the center of the catalog. Is that really the right thing to do? This month, I want to share with you the pros and cons of using a bind-in order form/envelope, provide you with actual test results and give you the criteria to use to make the right decision for all the right reasons.

INDUSTRY FACTS

 

I devoted my column in Catalog Success magazine in 2001 to this same topic. At that time, I reviewed a total of 150 different catalogs at random.  I found that 43% printed the order form on a page (or on two pages) in the catalog instead of using a separate bind-in order form with envelope.  Knowing that it is more common to find business-to-business catalogs not using bind-in order forms, I eliminated these catalogs from my survey.  In so doing, I found that one-third or one out of three consumer catalogs were printing the order form on a page in the catalog and not using a separate bind-in order form.  Seven years later, thanks to the help of The Dingley Press, I conducted the same survey. This time, I found that approximately 33% of the catalogs surveyed used a bind-in order form with envelope. The other 67% either printed the order form on a page in the catalog or had no order form at all. From the group who print the order form on a page in the catalog, two-thirds ink-jet the name, address and source code and one-third ink-jet the back cover only. To summarize, in seven years, the number of catalogers using a separate bind-in order form with envelope has decreased from 67% to approximately 33% based on our survey findings.

THE IMPORTANCE OF THE ORDER FORM

 

I would like to start with the premise that all catalogs should include some type of printed order form. And, the order form should be ink-jet imaged with the contact’s name, address and source code if possible. Eliminating the order form all together should not be an option regardless of how much business is going through the Web. The first thing people say to me when they are thinking about eliminating the bind-in order form is how many “mail orders” they receive in the envelope. Typically less than 5% of the orders are received by mail today but this should not be what drives the decision to eliminate the bind-in order form/envelope. It is important to understand how the order form is being used. The order form serves an important function. For example, often customers will complete the order form before they place the order over the Web or dial the 800 order line. Therefore, the order form is being used even though it is not mailed in. It aids the ordering process and it serves as a convenient tool for the customer.

 

ACTUAL TEST RESULTS

 

Always test. Before you eliminate the bind-in order form, set-up a A/B split test which can be done fairly economically. The results you report will most likely be similar to the actual results shown below. This particular catalog has a high average order size and lower response rate. However, as you can see, there was no statistical difference between the two groups to either the housefile or to prospects.

CATALOG ORDER FORM BIND-IN TEST
SELECTION NET
MAILED
ORDERS GROSS
DEMAND
AVG.
SALE
%
RESP.
RPC
Housefile Buyers:            
WITHOUT Bind-in Order Form Insert 41,062 403 $65,919 $163.76 0.98% $1.61
WITH Bind-in Order Form Insert 41,062 390 $66,584 $170.58 0.95% $1.62
             
Prospects:            
WITHOUT Bind-in Order Form Insert 58,939 436 $67,789 $155.48 0.74% $1.15
WITH Bind-in Order Form Insert 58,937 436 $65,285 $149.73 0.74% $1.11

BENEFITS FROM ELIMINATING THE BIND-IN ORDER FORM

There are several reasons why it might make sense for you to eliminate the bind-in order form with envelope. Let’s review as follows:

  1. Cost Savings – Prices range from $12 to $20 (or more) per thousand depending on size, quantity and use of color. They add weight to the catalog which can increase postage costs too.
  2. Page Count Expansion – Eliminating the bind-in order form can help you expand page count while remaining at the postal piece rate (maximum weight for a piece rate catalog is 3.306 ounces). For example, a catalog measuring 8” X 10 1/8” without a bind-in order form/envelope could expand to 68 pages with 64 pages on 34 lb., paper and a 4-page cover on 60 lb., paper for mailing at the piece rate (the catalog in this example weighs 3.2958 ounces).
  3. Additional Co-Mail Opportunities – Most catalogs that use a bind-in order form with envelope ink-jet image the order form page with the contact’s name, address and source code.  By giving up the ink-jetting on the inside order form, there will be more opportunities to co-mail off-line with other catalogs (with off-line co-mailing, printers can only ink-jet image the back cover; once the book is bound, the inside cannot be ink-jetted).

 

REASONS NOT TO ELIMINATE THE BIND-IN ORDER FORM

 

  1. Gross Margin Loss - Giving up the bind-in order form means using valuable full color pages in the catalog for the order form and how-to-order information.  If you print this information in the body of the catalog you could be using those pages to sell more merchandise.  Therefore, the opportunity lost, i.e. the selling of merchandise, in most cases will more than cost justifies having the bind-in order form.  This is where the analysis does not go far enough.  The thought process to arrive at a decision to eliminate the bind-in is often limited to how much money will be saved and does not take into consideration the gross margin dollars that will be lost from the elimination of a page (most often two pages) from the printed catalog.
  2. Loss of Hot-Spot at Center Spread – The center of the catalog where the bind-in order form generally appears is considered a “hot-spot”. That’s because the catalog tends to lay open to the center spread making it an excellent place to present and sell merchandise. Eliminating the bind-in order form reduces the effectiveness of the hot-spot because the catalog does not lay open as easily. 
  3. The Market You Serve - Older age catalog buyers (60 years of age and older) tend to use the order form and envelope more and often pay by personal check. If you sell to a more senior market, you might want to think twice about eliminating the envelope.

In summary, if you are going to eliminate the use of the bind-in order form envelope, print the order form on the left-hand page of the center spread and ink-jet image the source code, customer number, and the name and address fields on the page (unless you have the opportunity to off-line co-mail) just like you would do if you used a bind-in version.  Feature merchandise on the right-hand page at centerfold.  Don’t give up both pages of your center spread for the order form and how-to-order information. Look beyond the amount you pay for the bind-in order form/envelope in order to be certain you are coming to the right conclusion for the right reasons. Consider the gross margin dollar loss associated with giving up one (or two) full color pages in the catalog that could be used to sell more merchandise. What ever you do, don’t eliminate the order form all together. And, test before you do anything.