Print Catalogs are Alive and Well

The last spike in the utilization of print catalogs was in 2007. That trend declined during the Great Recession as many retailers viewed print catalogs as superfluous when their online offerings were so abundant and much less expensive to produce. However, FGI research recently found that consumers spend an average of $850 per year on catalog purchases.

Print catalogs are primarily considered a marketing tool, especially around holidays. They are nostalgic for many and foster brand loyalty. Visually appealing, catalogs are an effective way to communicate special pricing, new products or services, updated versions of established products, etc. that consumers might not otherwise become aware of.

The visual reminder puts a brand in the fore-front of consumers’ minds and provides companies the opportunity to display products in context by grouping together things that complement each other and encourage the sale of multiple items. 63% of customers say their purchasing is influenced by print catalogs and 77% say they visited a brick-and-mortar store in response to catalog content.

Print catalogs are an essential piece of a business’ marketing kit and, to be most effective and efficient, are used as part of a multi-channel marketing strategy. They tend to drive consumers’ online behavior. An iProspect study found 67% of online searches are driven by offline catalyst and many companies report a spike in online sales after a catalog delivery.

A catalog received in the mail adds to a consumer’s desire and willingness to shop via multiple channels by leading the consumer to the brand’s e-commerce site for purchasing. (Of course, there are some who still will call or actually fill out the order form by hand for traditional mailing purposes.) Companies have found that a balance needs to be struck between direct mail and digital spending to make the two approaches work together as much as possible.

A solid circulation plan is key to success, determining to whom and when to distribute the catalogs. Brands can segment by geo-graphics, age, gender, or interests to target audiences with specific content. By the same measure, it is important to track and analyze metrics to continuously cultivate mailing lists for best ROI. Fortunately, tracking had been made easier with customer and source codes so businesses can better understand the impact of their efforts.

The process of producing and printing catalogs has been greatly simplified with modern computer software and printing capabilities. Smaller companies are able to produce high quality catalogs with advances in printing and subsequently lower production costs. Instead of the five-pound bulky catalogs of the past, companies can send partial catalogs, compared to online offerings, to lead consumers to the fuller product or service inventory displayed on their website.

Catalogs can certainly be used as an inspiration for consumers to go to a brand’s e-commerce site. The print versions can be used as teasers for a broader set of services/products available on the brand’s website. Catalogs can also be a source for items not offered in brick-and-mortar stores.

In today’s electronic world, paper catalogs are a different touch than email or social media, especially with the younger generations. They provide an escape from electronics – a tangible interaction with a brand. Leafing through a catalog is a tactile, physical experience – consumers can turn down corners or come back to the catalog days later without having to recreate a Google search. Not to mention, someone’s ability to browse is not impacted by battery power or Internet connection.

Print catalogs stand out more today than they did 10 years ago and several studies have found that many people prefer the printed version of a catalog. A catalog sitting on the counter is a visual reminder of a brand and shopping in general. It is easy to forget about an unread marketing email and print catalogs don’t get deposited in spam folders like email marketing can. Yes, someone could throw the catalog directly in the recycling bin – all the more reason for an attractive and enticing cover. But consumers have to physically handle the catalog and make a conscious decision of whether to recycle it, browse through it, or save it to read later.

There are some challenges with print catalogs. They are expensive when you look at the total cost of creative, paper, and postage. They are less flexible than a website or digital catalog, and mailing lists take time to cultivate to a productive level. Those issues aside, catalogs are an effective engagement tool that increases brand recognition and product awareness and also boosts Internet and in-store sales.

Are you ready to return your brand to the nostalgia of a printed catalog? Contact the marketing experts at Strategy Driven Marketing today!