Direct Marketing

Are Catalogs Still A Thing?

Misty Back

May 25, 2022

Misty Back

May 25, 2022

Imagine a lazy Sunday afternoon, lying on your couch, flipping through your favorite store catalog. Whether you’re searching the Ikea catalog for a new coffee table or the L.L. Bean catalog for hiking boots, it’s a relaxing, stress-free way to shop - or browse.

Why catalogs?

That 4-inch-thick catalog Sears published every Christmas has gone the way of the Sony Walkman, but guess what? Just as portable music players have stuck around and evolved, so has the catalog. Catalogs are a powerful marketing tool that can help businesses to reach a wide range of consumers. By featuring products in an eye-catching and easily accessible format, catalogs can generate interest and drive sales. In addition, catalogs offer businesses the opportunity to present a large amount of information in a concise and organized manner. This makes catalogs an ideal way to highlight new products, special promotions, and company news. With their broad appeal and ability to generate results, catalogs are still widely used by businesses of all sizes.

Catalogs create a connection

Catalogs are filled with vibrant colors, and curated images, and give readers the sense that if they had these products they could be a part of the story. Take the Pottery Barn catalog, for example. The images of rooms that are perfectly designed, showcasing all Pottery Barn furniture and décor are quite convincing. Of course, you will want to relax by the fireplace on a soft Pottery Barn chair, wrapped in a fur blanket – who wouldn’t?

The Amazon toy catalog that is released during the holiday season is another popular catalog. It often has actual children’s stories written inside, as well as activities and games. The 2019 version’s opening page says, “Once you turn this page, you’ll enter a world where holiday dreams are made.” I don’t know about you, but when I was a kid, that’s a marketing hook that would’ve reeled me in. The longer kids are entertained by the catalog, the more time they will spend checking out all of the toys that fill the pages. Toys that will inevitably end up on their wish list.

Catalogs are tangible

Studies show that most people enjoy physical mail - especially millennials. A generation raised on the Internet actually likes to get ink on their fingers. This could be because it is such a different tactile experience for them. Also, the average piece of direct mail stays in the home for around 17 days. This means customers can access catalogs easily, multiple times - folding down the corners of the pages they want to come back to or even circling the items they are considering purchasing. Clipping through a catalog is a leisurely activity that consumers seem to enjoy.

Physical advertisements also create stronger brand recognition which in turn creates a long-lasting impact that will influence future purchasing decisions.

Catalogs provide measurable results

Return on investment is important when launching a new marketing campaign. Especially when it involves catalogs, as they can become quite costly to mail. In fact, postage makes up nearly 50% of the expenses associated with catalogs. This means catalogs incorporated into an omnichannel marketing campaign will have the highest ROI. According to the United State Postal Service, 60% of catalog recipients will visit the company’s website. Most purchases are made after the eighth touch, so exposing customers to your products and your message multiple times in various ways will increase the likelihood of a purchase being made.

In order to track the responses from your catalog, you could include a QR code that will direct readers to a landing page or even add a response code that the customer will enter when they make a purchase. A lot of customers will prefer reaching your business by phone, so be sure you are using a specific phone number to track and ideally, record the phone calls. And the most popular method of measuring the results from your catalog is by including a special offer or coupon that is only found in the catalog.

Catalogs live on, but they are different.

Are-Catalogs-Still-A-Thing-Inset-Photo-CatalogsCatalogs aren’t dead, but the days of packing everything you sell into one catalog are. Today’s catalogs are more than that. They are:

  • Teasers - visually driven, paper appetizers designed to pique buyers’ interests. Often designed to entertain and engage consumers, while showcasing products.
  • Targeted - They aim for niche audiences. For example, an outdoor outfitter might send individuals who have bought camping gear in the past a catalog showcasing tents and sleeping bags in the spring, before they head off to the woods for summer campouts.
  • Brand reinforcement – similar to a website, a catalog can and should reinforce a company’s brand, delivering the same messages in ways that are quickly recognized.

Catalogs can be scaled for large or small businesses.

In the past, large retail businesses (cue Sears) have mailed out thick books containing most, or all, of their products. Today, fewer businesses do this for a variety of reasons. One of which is the internet, where a business’ website can act as a digital catalog. The other lies in the cost factor, as mentioned before. Many of these retailers are turning to magazine production instead to promote their products as well as entertain their audience.

As for small businesses, a limited catalog sent to a carefully selected audience can help capture new customers. You can create a small catalog that showcases your best sellers and send it to a list of potential customers by purchasing a mailing list based on specific demographics or geographic areas.

Catalogs are here to stay

I can't think of anything that engages customers quite like a print catalog. That is partly because people choose to pick up a catalog and flip through it whereas digital ads are thrown in front of you whether you wanted to see them or not. Catalogs can be a key part of building customer loyalty because when customers latch on, (and they do) their love for this type of shopping experience becomes strong. Something about the glossy pages and physical beauty inspires buyers in ways email or online media doesn’t live up to.

Want to talk about creating a catalog, or about how to better target an audience for yours? Give us a call. We would love to chat with you.

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