7 Reasons Why The Print Catalog Is Not Dead

Over the past decade, many retailers and big brands have sworn off using a paper catalog to promote their products. They stopped believing in its power and stopped investing time and money into creating it. Numerous retailers switched over to online advertisements and disregarded delivering their new promotions in the mailboxes of countless possible customers.

Today, in this day and age of ever-online shopping experiences, some big retailers and brands still swear by creating catalogs – digital and print. In 2015, a study was conducted in the Netherlands which said that printed catalogs still reach 11 million people whereas digital catalogs reach a total of almost 4 million readers. Those are some impressive figures, right?

But to us, those numbers don’t really come as a surprise. We understand why big names like IKEA, Williams Sonoma, Bonobos and Restoration Hardware still entrust printed catalogs. We’ve rounded up a list why you should consider – or reconsider – believing in the power of print.

Reason 1: Print leaves a deeper and lasting impression.

MillwardBrown conducted a study in 2009 to understand the role of direct mail. They investigated how the brain of a person processes online material on the one hand and printed material on the other hand by making brain scans. Results? Tangible material is more “real to the brain. It has a meaning, and a place. It is better connected to memory”. In addition, printed items generate more emotion which in turn helps to develop more positive brand associations.

Reason 2: Print has a higher response rate.

The Data & Marketing Association yearly conducts a study to find out what drives the most response. Is it email, online display, paid search, direct mail – such as catalogs and flyers – or is it social media? According to their report of 2017, “direct mail produces the best response rate, just as it did in past studies”. Furthermore, response rates of direct mail, between 5.1% and 2.9%, are higher than the response rate of 2% of all digital channels combined.

Reason 3: Print is uncluttered.

We all continuously receive numerous emails in our inbox and see an abundance of display advertisements when we browse the internet. Digital messages are everywhere and unescapable. Yory Wurmser, director of Marketing and Media Insights at the Data & Marketing Association underlines that direct mail has become uncluttered: “Because of the proliferation of emails and the onslaught of display ads everywhere, there is an advantage of going through direct mail”.

Reason 4: Cost per conversion for print is cheaper.

When many retailers and big brands renounced their printed catalogs, the reason why was most often the high price. However, investing in print catalogs is more profitable than investing in any other medium. Deliver Magazine reported in 2011 that catalogs are one of the most cost-effective marketing tools on the market. When you invest in printing, you need to spend $47.61 to land an offer. This figure is way higher for email and paid search: $53.85 and $99.47 respectively.

Reason 5: Print spikes sales.

Some people might still be wondering why brands like Michael Kors, Zappos and Nordstrom continue to invest in catalogs. John Idol, chairman and CEO of Michael Kors explains the power of the catalog:

We have a very strong catalog business. Many of our competitors have either exited that business or never really went into it in a strong way. We literally send millions of catalogs a year. And we think that’s been a real key push for our consumer. We can see what it does in terms of our in-store performance when we drop catalogs. We get a very strong spike and we also get a very strong spike on our website. (Source: Quartz)

The answer is simple: catalogs just work. Print catalogs or brochures are essential to drive sales.

Reason 6: Print is a must for an omnichannel approach.

Omnichannel includes all the channels via which your client comes into contact with your brand: this can be email, social media, in-store, an online webshop, and direct mail. Mailing your customer your latest catalogue which includes your newest trends or promotions is just another part of the omnichannel experience. In the words of Anna Vichitcholchai, a Silicon Valley-based consultant with RetailNext:

Catalogs are the first omnichannel medium for retailers […] Marketing through catalogs is now creating a very personalized experience via high-end content that resembles the editorial material magazines. Catalogs are just another layer of the experience. (Source: RetailDive)

In addition, a survey by Kurt Salmon, a global management consulting firm, showed that the print catalog serves as a starting point for a shopping experience. In the study, 64% of participants purchased an item – online or in-store – after having seen it in a catalog.

Reason 7: Print is visual.

Print catalogs simply show what they have to offer to their customer. And that doesn’t stop with products included in the catalog. Take IKEA for example. Their yearly catalog doesn’t only showcase the newest products available but also serves as a source for inspiration. They offer home design ideas and suggest which furniture goes best together. In addition, a catalog visually demonstrates the values and philosophy of a brand. That’s the power of the IKEA catalog. And that’s the power of any catalogue: a catalog full of pictures of products that we like is simply appealing.

The printed catalog isn’t dead. It’s thriving.

Today, the catalog is not only a marketing tool to increase sales. Your customers get to touch it, can bookmark their favorite products and get to share it with others. It’s special since most brands don’t dare to take the route of catalogs. It’s different. What’s more, the catalog is the perfect addition to your omnichannel strategy. It’s ideal to address those who do not use the internet to make their purchases. And last but not least, print is personal. Who doesn’t love it when their favorite catalog gets delivered in their mailbox, just for themselves?