The Power of Print: Why Catalogs Are Still Relevant in the Digital Age

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In a world filled with shiny new things, print often gets overlooked. But it’s carved out an important niche, especially as a companion piece to digital marketing campaigns.

For example, a specialty luxury watches and jewelry e-commerce retailer saw a significant lift in sales after combining catalog mailings with email marketing. This powerful approach provides a seamless experience for buyers while providing marketers with precise measurement metrics.

They’re Personalized

With all the shiny new digital marketing tools, it’s easy to forget that traditional print catalogs are a highly personalized experience for brands and their customers. Retailers that produce catalogs use analytical data to determine what size or product content will work best for their target audiences. They also draw from shopper and product feedback to create an overall vision for their shopper that motivates their purchasing behavior. The result is a personalized catalog that can leave a lasting impression on their ideal customers and inspire brand loyalty.

For example, apparel retailer Boden, which sends catalogs out five times a year (Spring, Summer, Fall, and two Holiday books), reviews customer shopping trends to identify what products should be included in each edition. They then work with a designer to select photos and create layouts that appeal to their audience. In addition, they review customer data to decide what kinds of discounts and offers should be included to encourage purchases.

Even more importantly, the curated content and luxury feel of catalogs allows them to establish a strong connection with their audience that cannot be replicated with digital experiences like online ads or social media. As a result, some of the most successful catalogs printed by a catalog printing company are being used by retailers that rely more on e-commerce sales than brick-and-mortar.

They’re Durable

Catalogs may seem like a thing of the past, but they’re a valuable tool for e-commerce retailers looking to hook and keep customers. Unlike the Sears catalog of yore, which has long been an iconic retailer and catalog-loving brand that eventually collapsed under a mountain of debt, several e-commerce-reliant brands are now using the printed form to lure new shoppers and keep existing ones loyal.

Aside from containing high-quality product photos and narratives that build brand recognition, catalogs also tell the brand story in a physical way that cannot be replicated with digital marketing tactics such as direct email or social media. This creates a strong brand connection and loyalty for consumers, who keep catalogs on average for more than 15.5 days — significantly longer than the average time they spend with digital content such as text notifications or Facebook videos.

While management consulting firm Kurt Salmon reports that 44% of consumers prefer to receive fewer catalogs, survey findings from HBR show that 68% of online shoppers said they get ideas from paging through them. Nearly 90% bought items they saw in a catalog first. This is an impressive return for a tactic often dismissed by marketers in favor of more immediate but less enduring marketing opportunities such as social media posts or email campaigns.

They’re Affordable

A well-designed catalog can be a handy tool for a company, bringing in more sales, building brand loyalty, and jumpstarting the customer idea process. It’s a beautiful piece in its own right, with thick paper and glossy finishes that add a high-end feel.

Digital catalogs can also be updated frequently, allowing businesses to change product prices, add new products, or improve service descriptions without incurring significant production costs. Additionally, digital catalogs can be adapted to fit different buyer journeys and contexts to maximize effectiveness.

The jaded department store catalogs of the past have given way to catalogs that fill an aspirational space younger consumers are searching for. Tired of online ad clutter and intrusiveness, these buyers seek meaningful connections with brands through compelling storytelling. Catalogs provide a much-needed break from digital overload and offer an escape into the world of beautifully curated products. For e-commerce retailers without physical stores, catalogs are an ideal solution for boosting in-home engagement and enhancing brand affinity. For multichannel retailers, catalogs can be an essential channel for leveraging transactional data to drive omnichannel engagement and conversion.

They’re Convenient

In a world where digital ads seem everywhere, catalogs stand out as a piece of marketing that’s not susceptible to ad-blocking. It’s easy for customers to turn away from a computer screen to pick up a glossy brochure that feels more like a book or magazine than a collection of products.

Catalogs allow your audience to engage with the content while giving you their undivided attention. This will enable you to tell a story through your catalog that helps your target customer visualize how your product fits into their life. This jumpstarts their idea process and creates a lasting impression on your audience that can’t be replicated online.

Studies have found that catalogs can increase sales and inquiries compared to a control group that only received email campaigns. Additionally, a study by management consulting firm Kurt Salmon found that 44% of consumers said they’d prefer to receive fewer catalogs. However, 58% of those people responded that they get ideas from paging through them and that nearly 90% bought items they first saw in a catalog.

They’re Versatile

Despite the decline of Sears, many catalog retailers are still around—catalogs are handy for building brand loyalty and creating a recognizable shopping experience. Even e-commerce-reliant retailers like Mackenzie Childs, JCPenney, and Williams-Sonoma publish print catalogs to drive sales, proving that a well-written, beautifully designed, multichannel marketing campaign can bring significant results.

Today’s catalogs go beyond the antiquated models of the past by leveraging digital technologies to personalize and customize their content, as well as deliver a more robust shopping experience for customers. Digital enhancements such as augmented reality, dynamic QR Codes, and near-field communication can create engaging interactive experiences that drive customer engagement and sales.

The key is to understand your customers and create a thoughtfully crafted, multichannel approach that delivers the right message at the right time to achieve maximum impact. Start by mapping your customer journey and gaining insight into their behavior to ensure that your catalogs effectively drive sales. Then, make sure your mailing list is clean and current by using a trusted USPS address hygiene provider. This will not only help to ensure that your catalogs reach the right customers but also avoid any costly errors or misplaced deliveries.

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