Are Print Catalogs Still Relevant in Today’s Digital World?


Today you can order online, order over the phone, and even order from your phone. With so many choices, where do old-fashioned paper catalogs fit in the marketing mix? Printing and mailing are expensive propositions. Is it even worth it anymore?

Are Print Catalogs Still Relevant in Today's Digital World?

Are print catalogs still relevant in the age of digital marketing? Oh yes.

Here are some surprising reasons print catalogs are making a comeback...and why multi-channel marketing is the way to go.

Catalogs Spark Ideas

According to management consulting firm Kurt Salmon, 44% of consumers say they’d like to receive fewer catalogs. But get this: in the same survey, 58% responded that they get ideas from paging through catalogs, and nearly 30% said they have retailer catalogs in hand while purchasing goods online. Almost 90% said they’d bought products they first saw in a catalog.

Why the contradiction? Catalogs have an appeal that goes beyond product photos. We may be annoyed when they stuff our mailboxes, but two out of three can’t resist opening them. And when we do, they undeniably influence us. Print catalogs showcase products in context, group items that can be used together, and suggest new uses for familiar items. It’s a great way to upsell, cross-sell, and compare products. Mailing list customers spend an average of 20% more per sale after receiving a catalog.

Cutting Catalogs Means Less Sales: Learning the Hard Way

Faced with the rising cost of print, Land’s End decided to stop mailing catalogs in 2000. The result was a whopping $100 million loss in sales. After they resumed catalog mailings, Land’s End used a pop-up to ask customers if they had seen a catalog before placing their order. 75% said yes.

Ikea aims to be the most successful retailer in the world and they’re well on their way with sales driven by print catalogs full of ideas and personality. Their answer to “why print catalogs?” is as clever as it is funny…

Their attitude is funny, but their catalog business is not. Ikea prints 211 million catalogs worldwide each year.

B2B Sees the Same Results

“Some customers only shop through our website, some only through our catalog...Our best customers use both. When we look at their lifetime customer value, we get a considerable bump.”

That’s from food handling equipment distributor Hubert Co. They report that multichannel marketing—employing a mix of catalogs and e-commerce—boosts sales and inspires customer loyalty.

B2B decision makers are driven by the same motivations driving retail consumers. Show them products specifically targeted to make their workday more productive and you’ll get (and keep) their attention.

Is It Worth the Cost?

“Catalogs remain the highest-quality, most visually-alluring vehicle to capture an audience, present product, create an aspirational lifestyle and generate solid customer loyalty and brand-awareness. No one can argue the distinct advantage catalogs have through photography, paper and printing quality, size, use of models and share of customer attention. And, catalogs have proven to be the most successful driver of web traffic. There's no better way for a multi-channel marketer to target and acquire customers.”

That’s Andy Ostroy, the Chairman and CEO of direct marketing agency Belardi/Ostroy, breaking down the cost/return ratio on Huffington Post. Powerful stuff.

While they may seem like old-fashioned relics to some, are print catalogs still relevant? You bet. Clearly human nature never goes out of style. Catalogs provide a tactile and visual experience that can’t be equaled by digital media. Catalogs don’t really sell products, they jumpstart the idea process that leads to purchasing decisions. It’s storytelling at its finest.

For ongoing ideas to hold onto your customers be sure to follow Cultivate on LinkedIn or subscribe to receive Motivational Monday updates in your inbox each week below.

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