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The Rebirth of Catalog Marketing in Today’s Retail Environment

Recently updated on January 19th, 2018 at 11:59 pm

Let’s face it. The internet is changing the way we market our business and there’s no other way but to adapt.

For years, we are slowly moving away from traditional marketing forms into the convenience of the digital world. The rise of e-commerce businesses moved retail from physical shops to a virtual space. “Add to Cart” has a different meaning now and filling it up is as simple as clicking a product shown on the screen.

Customer browsing clothes catalog

The advancement did come with an initial cost from the printing industry, especially on the use of catalogs and circulars. According to the Direct Marketing Association, catalogs mailed by businesses to consumers peaked during the 2007. Because of the recession, the number decreased by almost 40%.

However, recent years have shown an increase in the usage that might signal a rebirth.

The catalog as a marketing tool

Retail businesses have used catalog marketing since time immemorial. Using direct mail, they reach out to potential customers and show them a detailed list of products that they offer. This type of format has greatly benefited clothing and apparel companies, even going as far as releasing catalogs for each season.

Companies like Ikea, Victoria’s Secret, and Bloomingdales regularly sent out catalogs to showcase new creations. The global recession hit and these businesses were forced to decrease their investment for catalogs or abandon it altogether.

Rebirth of catalog marketing

The year 2013 saw a slight increase in the use of catalogs. Since then, there seems to be an upward trend in catalogs mailed by businesses. The resurgence of catalog marketing might signal a better understanding of how catalogs work and how it can be integrated back to the new status quo.

Collection of catalogs

For instance, retail giant J.C. Penney has revived their catalog which they have discontinued for almost half a decade. They revived their home goods catalog that will focus on reaching existing customers.

J.C. Penney’s marketing strategy makes sense as more than 90 million Americans make purchase decisions with a catalog. Research from the American Catalog Mailers Association found out that these consumers purchase an average of $850. This only shows that indeed, catalogs are one of the most effective drivers of retail purchases. The question now is how catalogs, circulars, and print in general fit in the altered retail environment.

Adapting to the times

Retail marketers are now seeking to integrate their print and digital marketing efforts, and for a good reason. Tapping customers across channels can reach out to more people in a more effective way. Through experience, we’ve learned how print and digital can end up actually strengthening each other.

For instance, using a more targeted approach to sending direct mail catalogs to consumers can be more efficient than a shotgun approach and hoping for the best. With demographic and psychographic data formed into a buyer persona, businesses can pick which individuals have a higher chance of purchasing their products.

Retail business owner checking her online sales.

Thus, catalog marketing is delegated to a new role—leading customers online.

Retail marketers have started to invest in creating the catalog as an experiential tool. Modern incarnations of the catalogs such as that of J.C. Penney’s focus on telling a story that their recipient could relate to. Some even bank on its nostalgia factor. Ikea’s 2015 catalog poked fun at themselves and created an advertisement for their catalog, saying it’s not a digital book or an e-book but a “bookbook” that is fully charged forever.

While there are different approaches, the end goal is the same: lead recipients to e-commerce sites to purchase. With its tactile nature and ability to catch recipients in their homes with a relaxed mindset, looking through products they might be interested in, catalogs may just be one of the most powerful lead generation tools today.

One thing is certain. The catalog is here to stay.

How do you use your catalogs? Tell us in the comments section below.

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