What’s Old Is New Again This Holiday Season – The Catalog Comeback

November 15, 2018

With the digital ecosystem booming with noise as the holiday season approaches, brands will be working even harder this year to cut through the clutter to reach more shoppers and convert sales.

The good news? Consumer sentiment is up and so is intent to spend, according to the National Retail Federation, who recently noted that consumers intend to spend an average of 4.1% more over the holidays this year than last. But, those same consumers also expect to be met with relevance, great brand experiences and competitive pricing offers.

Many companies look to digital to be their primary driver of sales, but more are looking at offline as a complement to digital efforts, and a way to get their brand and products more directly in the hands of consumers. Retailers like Target, Lego and perhaps most notably, Amazon (with its Holiday of Play), are all leveraging catalogs this holiday season to give customers more personal access to not just their products, but their brand stories.

So, why this uptick in new catalogs produced by some of the biggest retailers, and why do we continue to see brands turn to catalogs as a key piece in the customer journey?

Ability To Target And Personalize

Catalogs have historically been seen as one of the pricier marketing channels, but that fact particularly hit home before brands and retailers had the ability to fine tune their targeting. Because there are much more sophisticated data planning processes and platforms today, it’s easier to understand what potential or current customers respond best to catalogs as a part of their customer journeys, and it’s even possible to personalize the catalog content itself to specific audiences based on their preferences. Today, there are also companies that exist to deepen the connection between the online and offline experience, by interpreting on-site behavior – like certain product affinities or other cues about where people are in the purchase funnel – in order to deliver even more relevant mail or catalog offers.

New Channel To Drive Incremental Sales When Digital May Be Capping Out

Many brands have been able to quantify and capitalize on the incremental value of cataloging when it’s paired with digital strategy. For instance, a smart omnichannel strategy could be to measure the impact of catalog drops on online engagement, like in paid search, where you might see spikes in product searches or generally higher purchase intent from customers for products that are featured in catalog. With better targeting options, it gives brands the ability to explore the channel’s impact without entirely breaking the budget, and it can also help to proactively synergize marketing and budgeting plans based on the correlations drawn between customer behavior on and offline.

Millennials Respond Favorably To Direct Mail

There are scores of statistics about how well different generations of consumers respond to direct mail and catalogs, but how about a statistic that speaks to someone’s tendency to ignore any one particular channel less? According to a study by the USPS, millennials are only 15% likely to ignore direct mail, compared to 50% who said they ignore digital ads. While there’s no doubt that millennials are a digitally-native generation, they largely see direct mail in a positive light, likely because it’s a break in the constant digital noise. That being said, it’s important to make the experience memorable, which means adding elements like personalization and great creative in order to make the brand and/or products stick.

Strong LTV From Direct Mail Purchase Customers

Building long term relationships with your customers is critical to sustainable customer file and revenue growth. While it’s difficult to predict how long each customer relationship will last, retailers can remove some of that uncertainty through effective catalog marketing, as the channel has proven to be stickier and thus yields better long term value when compared to digital channels.

Ability To Shape Brand Perception

For many retailers, the primary objective of a catalog, aside from being a driver of sales, is to be a point of influence in brand perception. Just by the nature of how catalogs are built and designed, brands have the opportunity to storytell around their products, and embed them into consumers’ lives more relevantly by showing familiar looking scenes or stories that relate. It also allows them to elevate their brand perception in ways that can’t necessarily be achieved in digital.

It’s Tangible

In a world of disappearing Stories and 6-second video ads, catalogs are a refreshing break from the rapid nature of digital engagement. According to a 2018 study by the United States Postal Service, people spend an average of 15.5 minutes looking at a catalog – a virtual lifetime in the online world. A catalog’s tangibility also makes it a good retention tool, because people often hang onto, and revisit catalogs more than they’d likely revisit an email or a piece of content online. The ability to refer back to a catalog also puts the brand back into someone’s mind, which is especially important during key moments in the shopping calendar like Holiday.

With holidays in full swing, don’t be surprised if you see more catalogs popping up, and don’t be surprised by the new brands that might be sending them!

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