According to Direct Marketing Association, 11.9 billion catalogs were mailed in 2013, marking the first increase in 6 years. But these are not your mother’s phone book size publications. The move highlights a print format with fewer pages, bigger photos and less merchandise descriptions…think lifestyle magazines. Catalogs are now a source of inspiration for the shopper. The idea is to bait the “window shopper” to the web or brick and mortar. Consumers flip through pages like roaming down store aisles. “And if we do a good job, they get ideas for things they didn’t even know they wanted before they got there,” said Pat Connolly, Chief Marketing Officer at Williams-Sonoma Inc. and “catalog maestro”.
Retailers are even incorporating designer Q & A content as inspiration to buy; others using tactics like sticky tabs to mark pages and remind them to shop. Some children catalogs have included sticker pages for kids, demanding more attention and encouraging shoppers to spend even more time flipping pages. Research shows shoppers spend up to 20 minutes with a catalog, about 8 seconds with email and 5 minutes with an app.
41% of Americans shop online with a catalog in their hand.1 JC Penney decided to bring back their catalog, for the first time since 2010, after learning that most of their online sales were driven by catalog shoppers using the website to place their orders. Chief Executive Myron “Mike” Ullman reported a loss after 2009 when the company stopped publishing three “Big Books” a year. Better understanding their target audience and top selling items, Penney plans to mail drop a 120 page catalog featuring home goods to select customers (their former home shoppers). “We are trying to get back those lapsed customers,” Mr. Ullman said.
Online retailers supported by catalogs yield 163% more revenue than those without.2 Retailers are rediscovering catalogs as a useful branding tool. Some exclusive online retailers choose catalog printing as an opportunity for full brand expression; helping customers to understand their brand in a way they can’t online. Bonobos, a menswear brand grounded primarily online, mailed its first catalog in March 2013. Craig Elbert, Bonobos’ Vice President of Marketing, shares “A catalog gives us a bit more breathing room to grab folks’ attention.” Results after their first mailing prompted them to up their game and increase circulation with 10 catalogs in 2015, up from 8 last year.
63% of consumers report that they bought something they saw in a custom publication.3 Bonobos reports 20% of the website’s first time traffic is customers placing their order after having received a catalog and they spend 1.5 times as much as shoppers that didn’t receive the printed piece. Playing a crucial role in modern commerce, catalogs are helping retailers target their “best customers” moving them from desire into action.
1, The Value of Print. 2, USPS, Deliver magazine Vol. 5. 3, Choose Print.