Thursday May 23, 2019


Amazon catalog


As advertising has become increasingly dominated by the Facebook and Google duopoly, it would be easy to write off the print catalog as a relic. But more retailers and service-oriented companies are making a return to rolling out catalogs to hook prospects and keep existing customers loyal.  Even Amazon is reportedly planning to launch a toy catalog.  Costco, which has distributed catalogs to its customers for over 20 years, maintains that catalogs are a crucial driver for sales, both online and in its e-commerce stores. They state, “When we’ve done tests and not mailed things, we’ve seen a huge downward impact on sales — the printed piece makes a difference.”

Snail mail

It may sound counterintuitive to return to snail mail, but digital advertising has really become crowded and noisy. People engage through stories. They respond when inspired.  What catalogs do is provide the retailer with the opportunity to tell a story and put those products or services in context. Presenting your products or services in story form helps connect the reader to your brand on an emotional level to inspire action.  Emails are sent to customers who may have abandoned transactions online, but to drive incremental sales, a physical catalog helps customers get a better visual idea of what the brand represents and can add to a retailer’s marketing strategy.



 Studies show that consumers enjoy reading magazine-like catalogs, and the average time spent looking at a catalog is 15 minutes.  Catalogs are also a strong customer retention tool since people are even more likely to read and keep catalogs from retailers they have bought from before.  Here are some helpful ideas that you can use to create a catalog that connects and delivers.

Perfect bound catalogs


#1: Catalogs influence purchase decisions. 

Did you know that catalogs actually have a stronger influence on purchase decisions than websites or TV ads?  Surveys indicate that catalogs make potential customers more interested in that retailer’s products, and most were more likely to purchase an item or a service after seeing it in a catalog. The Data & Marketing Association (DMA) explains that this is because “where online marketing is passive, direct mail is active. Direct mailings are proactive and tactile—demanding that the recipient does something with it. And the better response rates make the return on the investment (ROI) worthwhile for both retention and acquisition.” Powerful evidence like this, is why retailers still use catalogs to engage customers and spark them to start the buyer’s journey.


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#2: Neuroscience research supports the value of physical catalogs as a complement to digital communications.

By studying consumers’ brains, science is digging deeper into marketing to analyze what works and what doesn’t.  Results reveal that physical ads leave a longer lasting impact for easy recall when making a purchase decision (vs. digital).  Most importantly, physical ads triggered activity in the area of the brain (ventral striatum) that is responsible for evaluating the value and desirability for featured products, which can signal a greater intent to purchase.



To sum it up, science is now proving that direct mail such as catalogs deliver:

  • Better recall over longer periods.
  • Stronger brand associations.
  • Deeper emotional connections.


 #3: Catalogs evoke strong, positive emotions and associations.

From the feel of the paper on your fingertips to the visual appeal of the images, catalogs give readers a real and multidimensional experience that stimulates multiple senses simultaneously. These physical experiences help make memories and connections. They also inspire readers with possibilities, helping provide an escape from daily stresses. Studies show that catalogs even help ease the anxiety around receiving bills.


Flip book


#4: Catalogs can leverage customer data to personalize experiences.

Thanks to large industry databases containing demographic information on millions of households, targeting with catalogs is much easier now. And thanks to online purchasing, many retailers have amassed their own databases that can be used to segment their customers by type and buyer behavior. Identifying niches and verticals helps you target only high-quality leads—so you get the right catalogs to the right people. For example, you can showcase a distinct group of products to a target audience, such as golfers or cooks, who are more likely to purchase, which ultimately helps increase ROI. Segmenting also helps offset catalog production costs because they are going to customers who have shown interest in a particular product category.

Mailbox with catalogs

#5: Catalogs enable attribution and measurable results.

Armed with the knowledge of which lead came from where, you can better assess if your catalogs are meeting your goals. Depending on performance, you can then adjust your inventory, copy, visuals, offers and digital drivers as needed. With their definitive mail dates and customer and source codes, catalogs are easy to track. Telephone, mail and online orders as well as special promotions can all be tracked with codes, so you can attribute a sale to a specific catalog. Driving customers to a digital app from your catalog also provides instant trackability.


Girl with catalogs


 #6: Catalogs deliver ease, convenience, and relaxation.

Easy to consume, catalogs provide the opportunity for consumers to slow down and enjoy the experience of being transported through images and stories—all over a cup of coffee. It also gives them the time to discover new items and make the best choices. Catalogs are accessible anywhere, which allows the reader to browse at their own speed and on their own schedule with fewer distractions. And by featuring a focused product selection, catalogs save people time lost in searching a website. That’s why consumers report that catalogs are enjoyable and fun to browse.


Girl with coffee


#7: All generations say they like physical mail, especially millennials.

Even though they are a tech generation, millennials are embracing mail. So why do these digital natives love direct mail?  In part, it’s because they are inundated with digital media. Physical mail stands out in millennials’ otherwise electronic world. This generation is also geared toward visual content, and direct mail caters to the physical senses.  This important buyer segment also spends more time sorting mail than other age groups and appears more engaged with mail than the average consumer.


Mail bags

In a survey conducted by the USPS®, households reported a strong attachment to mail.

  • 81% take the time to look through mail each day.
  • 67% prefer reviewing physical mail to receiving emails.
  • 64% look forward to receiving mail each day.



Multichannel shopping is the new standard in the retail experience. Customers who engage with a brand through multiple channels are the most sought-after by savvy retailers. Printed catalogs encourage multichannel consumer behavior. Twenty-five percent of printed catalogs trigger a website visit, and 33 percent trigger a visit to a retail store, according to a Canada Post Study.

Print creates natural connections with multiple points in the buying experience, leading consumers online to product review and brand websites, or to shop from an app on their phone. The use of augmented reality (AR) has also enhanced printed catalogs by allowing the once-static space to deliver a digital experience for consumers.

IKEA pioneered the trend by offering an app for consumers to virtually try out furniture from the catalog. Today, many retailers are following their lead. Converse offers an app that allows consumers to virtually “try on” shoes, by pointing their phone at their foot. Northern Lighting, a Nordic company specializing in the design and manufacture of luxury in-home lights, invites consumers to see lighting on the table or floor by using the AR feature paired with their printed brochure.


Staple catalog



Every marketer knows that each medium in a marketing mix has to contribute to the growth of the brand. Print is a proven performer, leading the way in many buyers’ journeys. A high percentage of consumers get ideas for household shopping trips from the printed flyers they receive in the mail. Printed catalogs engage the reader, create an experience and build brand loyalty — and they instigate purchases.

For marketers who seek to tell a well-rounded brand story, it’s an exciting time to explore print. With its proof of cognitive engagement and sales funnel performance, print has found a dominant place in the consumer buying experience and continues to be a force to be reckoned with.


Woman with cell



There’s nothing quite like a beautiful printed piece to imply permanence and credibility. Neiman Marcus, a brand synonymous with luxury, reinforces its high-end status by making an aggressive statement with its annual holiday catalog, which features outrageous, over-the-top fantasy gift offerings like a Valkyrie private plane and a limited-edition Infiniti sedan. More and more, retailers are turning to the powerful brand engagement only print can offer by crafting printed catalogs that are meant to be perused, enjoyed and even displayed on the coffee table.

Today’s catalogs are powerhouse marketing tools. It’s no longer a competition between digital and print. It’s all about using the strengths of each medium and offering the best of both worlds to create inspiration and engagement that satisfy your customer and your company’s bottom line.


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