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Back to the future with shopping catalogues
Wednesday, 21 March 2018

Shopping catalogues have an illustrious past. But today's catalogue businesses could learn a lot from their early forerunners — because they knew exactly how to delight radically different groups of customers, all at the same time.

Back to future catalogues 900

The catalogue concept dates back to around 500 years ago, when price lists of books and seeds were first published. But things really took off in 1861, thanks to a draper called Pryce Pryce-Jones.

An affordable, uniform post service and a local railway link meant this Welsh entrepreneur could suddenly reach shoppers everywhere — posting catalogues, receiving orders and then sending goods, mostly by train.

Business boomed. But what's especially interesting is the sheer range of customers he kept satisfied:

  • Rural customers in isolated locations unable to get into town easily
  • Customers in British colonies and the United States
  • Queen Victoria, the Princess of Wales and royal households across Europe

Omnichannel customer service, 19th century style

We don't know the details, but even then, shopping experiences would have varied enormously. Some country folk who couldn't read would have needed others to explain the products, take their money and submit the orders while Royalty would doubtless have had trusted servants to take care of purchases.

Whatever happened, it worked — spectacularly. By 1880, Pryce Pryce-Jones had more than 100,000 customers and was knighted soon after.

Omnichannel and Secure customer service today

If Pryce Pryce-Jones's low-tech enterprise could do business with a fragmented marketplace back then, surely today's catalogue companies can manage it with ease?

The secret is all about engaging with different groups of customers using the channels they prefer —and improving the service they receive. Here's what we mean...

Taking care of your customers: With customer service being the number 1 priority for all businesses today, it is absolutely critical to show that your payments are secure and PCI DSS compliant to reassure your customers that their sensitive and card holder data is safe. Afterall, 66% of consumers would stop doing business with an organisation that leaked their data – you can’t afford to let that happen to you. The safest way to handle this is to not store any of that data. If it’s not there it can’t be stolen.

Older customers: This audience often values printed catalogues and being able to place orders over the phone, making secure payments. But if your agents are busy, then a free Call-Back service means you don't lose the sale. Alternatively, if silver surfers are trying to buy online, then your agents could help them to complete their orders using Co-Browsing.

Youth Market Millennials and other younger customers will often place orders via mobile sites, so it's vital you can offer secure mobile payments. And if they're using Apple Pay for almost everything else in their lives, they'll be delighted if you can offer this service. As for needing help, this audience would prefer an instant response from you via a Social Media Agent or Web Chat. In fact, it's now possible to complete transactions during a Web Chat sessions using payment in Web Chat (ChatGuard)

Wider audiences: Pryce-Jones's business reached new heights when he connected with international customers. Using today's Omnichannel tools, it's far easier to communicate with overseas audiences as well domestic customers whose first language isn't English. Natural Speech Recognition in 80 languages can simplify interaction with callers, while tools like Social Media Agent can engage with customers across multiple online channels in more than 160 languages.

Discover more

Watch the video and see how just one of these new Omnichannel solutions can benefit your customers and boost sales.

Alternatively, download our Guide to Omnichannel Engagement or The Definitive Guide to PCI DSS compliance to take a closer look at what's happening today.

Call, or email us today to arrange a full demonstration of our Secure Payment or Omnichannel solutions so we can show you just how it will benefit your business and your customers.

If you'd like to know more about customer engagement or secure payments then give us a call on 08000 630 730 or drop us an email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

About the Author

Tony Porter

Tony Porter

Head of Global Marketing

Tony has over 30 years’ experience in sales, marketing and business development and currently leads these activities for Eckoh in both the UK and US markets and across all sectors. Tony’s role focuses on helping contact centres to improve their customer engagement, making them convenient and secure for consumers to use. He understands the challenges organisations face around PCI DSS compliance and how to make the Omnichannel contact centre experience a satisfying reality. He is a regular speaker at events on topics such as PCI DSS, GDPR, contact centre technology, IVR solutions, self-service, secure payments, marketing and business development.

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