Even though online buying is becoming an everyday practice, shoppers and retailers alike are showing that paper is still the way to go in terms of marketing. Because, while they are bombarded with online ads that they rarely trust or click on, consumers consistently show a strong attachment to physical mail that they can interact with on their own time.
Print marketing might mean more time and money than digital, but catalogs that positively engage your customers are worth the investment. Follow these eight best practices when creating your next catalog campaign.
Inspire Your Customers
First and foremost, your catalogs should inspire your consumer. Gone are the days that a catalog is a simple product list. Now–through thoughtful design, photography, and copy–you can tell the story of your brand and connect with customers that have the same aesthetic tastes.
In an age where people are curating their lives through social media, brand images can now be aspirational rather than just advertisements. Make a goal of creating an emotional connection through your catalogs in addition to being informational.
When designing your catalog, it is important to design with your audience in mind. Visuals can go a long way and, from start to finish, should reflect the aesthetic of your customer. Even if the product comes from the same category–say fashion–a catalog for young professionals will look much different than a catalog for mothers.
Consider personalizing catalogs to show items based on previous purchases or to show items that are available in nearby stores. This level of personalization will set you apart. Consider working with vendors that offer variable data printing.
Present a Strong Brand Identity
Catalogs are always competing for space in a consumer’s mind. However, many of them look so similar, it’s difficult to differentiate between the companies. In order to create brand loyalty, you need to stand out among the crowd, and you can do that by creating and showing a strong identity.
A catalog should be an extension of your brand and should support whatever messages you stand for. A successful catalog will both display products and present a clear individuality. Don’t let your catalog get bogged down with product details. Use the unique voice of the brand to carry your products forward.
Focus on Quality
Hand in hand with a strong brand presence is quality. This means quality in design, size, and type of paper – everything that goes into a catalog should be purposeful, and it should represent your business in the best way possible. These small details can enhance the overall appearance of your catalog and ultimately say a lot about your brand.
Make It Easy to Navigate
Catalogs should have a user-friendly layout and be designed in a way that naturally leads from page to page. Readability and scannability are both essential in clear design.
There should be a clear hierarchy to each page, with one or two items standing out and other elements lending support. Remember: using different fonts can be confusing, white space is your friend, and important information should always be clear and up front.
Use Impactful Photos
Catalogs that are image-heavy give a sense of brand personality and allow customers to scan through with minimal effort. In general, environmental photography–that show products in a surrounding where they would naturally be–is most effective, especially when the people in the photos are interacting with your products.
However, don’t group too many products in one photo as it will be distracting to the viewer. It is best to show items individually or in very small, related groups. Make great photos the centerpiece in your catalog. They’ll do the work to keep your reader engaged.
Make Ordering Easy
Think beyond aesthetics, as well. If a reader can’t figure out how to place an order or what items they want to purchase, then you stand to lose out on sales. This is why it is essential to organize your catalog to make ordering as easy as possible. Often top-selling products are lost among similar items. Focus on these items and position them with products that would go well in addition to rather than instead of. Any opportunity to cross-sell companion products through copy or callouts can increase sales up to 15%.1
As a customer browses the catalog, it should be clear how they can place an order. Include website URLs and a phone number that are easy to find within the design, and then push orders with promotions and time-sensitive offers.
Successful catalogs will help lead your customers online to make purchases, but should only be sent with controlled frequency as to not overwhelm or annoy them. While 53% of consumers like the number of catalogs they receive and 25% want even more, a fine line exists between more catalogs and too many.2
For consumers that desire catalogs, once a month should be the maximum frequency. However, quarterly or seasonal catalogs are optimal for most effective brand-customer interaction.
Engaging catalog marketing has been a proven method of boosting online sales. By following these best practices, you can provide your customers with a memorable experience that makes them feel inspired, connects them to your brand, and drives them to shop.
Print has proven time and again to play an integral role in marketing. While digital ads are ever present, a U.S Postal Service® survey showed that 92% of households report having a strong attachment to mail and even look forward to receiving mail each day.1 Catalogs especially are known to have positive associations, improve brand recall, and drive customers to a brand’s website. The challenge is standing out from competitors.
Engagement and brand storytelling are essential in creating memorable catalogs, and technology can add new dimension to an already popular and successful marketing tool. Read on to learn about four ways to elevate your next catalog campaign.
Augmented Reality (AR) technology seamlessly combines the digital and physical worlds to provide your customers with an interactive experience that’s exciting and unexpected. Utilizing this technology has been proven by one study to increase the likelihood of a purchase up to 88%.2
AR layers digital graphics over your customer’s surroundings. Incorporate a visual trigger into your catalog for your customers to activate with a smartphone camera. Then they’ll see your product come to life in any way you imagine.
Virtual Reality (VR) is another game changer. Now your catalogs can deliver a message that comes to life before your customer’s eyes, right from their living room. Proven to revolutionize the shopping experience, the VR industry is expected to become a $10-15 billion market by 2022.3
Utilizing this technology and including a mailable headset in your catalog gives your customers everything they need to see your products in a whole new light.
Video content is versatile and delivers your message instantly. You can incorporate this technology in your catalogs in several ways: embed a paper-thin screen into a mailpiece, direct customers to dynamic digital content or have your visuals come alive right on the page with video-enhanced print.
One simple way to incorporate this technology is through a QR code®.4 Launch digital content from your catalog with a QR code® that leads customers to time-sensitive promotions or your online shop. Catalogs with video-enhanced print can help mesmerize your audience and increase your product awareness.
Near Field Communication
Near Field Communication (NFC) is the new frontier of wireless technology. There are many exciting ways to use this technology that bridge a physical catalog with the digital world.
NFC tags–usually an embedded microchip in a sticker or a product label–can launch tailored digital content on an NFC-capable mobile device with short-range radio wave. With a tap or a wave of the smartphone, your customers can seamlessly connect to your brand online.
Reinvent your catalog marketing with technology. Tell your brand story and immerse your customers in what your business has to offer with these innovative digital additions. Incorporate technology for richer customer experiences and potentially larger returns for your company.
People engage through stories. They respond when inspired. While merchandising still matters, presenting your products in story form helps connect the reader to your brand on an emotional level to inspire action.
Studies show that consumers enjoy reading magazine-like catalogs. That’s why they spend time engaging with them. In fact, the average time spent looking at a catalog is 15.5 minutes and consumers tend to hold on to them for several weeks.1 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.1
Catalogs not only provide the tangibility and power of direct mail, they’ve become an integral part of an omni-channel campaign by driving customers to digital experiences. They’re now mobile, website and in-store traffic drivers.
In addition, catalogs remain an effective acquisition vehicle. A popular men’s clothing retailer reports that 20% of its website’s first-time customers are placing their orders after having received a catalog. And they are spending one-and-a-half times as much as new shoppers who didn’t receive a catalog first.2
In this article, we’ll take a look at 10 powerful reasons why catalogs should be an integral part of your marketing strategy. We’ll also give you some helpful ideas that you can use to create a catalog that connects and delivers.
Reason #1: Catalogs influence purchase decisions.
Did you know that catalogs actually have a stronger influence on purchase decisions than websites or TV ads?1 72% of people surveyed said that catalogs make them more interested in that retailer’s products, and 84% have purchased an item after seeing it in a catalog.1 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 do something with it. And the better response rates make the return on the investment worthwhile for both retention and acquisition.”3 Powerful evidence like this is why retailers still use catalogs to engage customers and spark them to start the buyer’s journey.
Idea worth implementing:
Feature additional content that helps your customer connect with your products and your company. Studies show that catalogs that include content to express a brand personality have the potential to drive increased sales. In fact, 65% said they would read additional content.1 This can include stories around how the product is used or was created, related articles that provide deeper information and customer or employee profiles.
Reason #2: People engage with catalogs on a deeper level.
The purchase experience has become a big deal. Even digital-native organizations have embraced print to better connect with and engage their customers and prospects.1 It’s about moving people beyond a transaction to an emotional connection. Through stories and images, catalogs take people on a journey or even an adventure. That’s why they encourage deeper engagement with retailers and their products. Research shows that the average length of time keeping catalogs is 20.3 days.1 And that 84% enjoy getting catalog from retailer(s) they previously shopped with.1
Idea worth implementing:
Offer limited-time promotions. Studies show that engagement with catalogs is strongest when sales are featured.1 Promotions create a sense of urgency and make it easy to reward your customers. In fact, 81% are more likely to look at a catalog if it features items on sale.1
Reason #3: Catalogs are a launching pad for multi-channel purchasing journeys.
Catalogs introduce new ideas. They create awareness and inspire consumers to buy through other channels. Research shows that catalogs are most successful when incorporated into an omni-channel marketing campaign to drive customers to e-commerce sites to optimize purchases.4
Idea worth implementing:
Extend your brand identity by using the same tone and imagery through all your media channels, including online, social media and print. Be sure to include multiple ordering options in your catalogs, such as website links, phone numbers or mail-in forms including Business Reply Mail® or Courtesy Reply Mail™.
Reason #4: Neuroscience research supports the value of physical catalogs as a complement to digital communications.1
By studying consumers’ brains, science is digging deeper into marketing to analyze what works and what doesn’t. The results revealed 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.”1 To sum it up, science is now proving that direct mail such as catalogs deliver:1
- Better recall over longer periods.
- Stronger brand associations.
- Deeper emotional connections.
Idea worth implementing:
Map out your customers’ journey from awareness to purchase to gain insight into how catalogs would best fit into their experience. Are they print traditionalists or are they online shoppers who seek instant gratification? Gathering these valuable insights can help you create a catalog that gives your audience what they want and gives you the most bang for your buck.
Reason #5: Catalogs bridge the gap between physical and digital worlds.
When paper and pixels converge, amazing things can happen. Catalogs offer the perfect physical platform for integrating dynamic digital technologies such as augmented reality (AR), dynamic QR Code®, near field communication (NFC) and much more.7 These technologies can help you deliver engaging interactive experiences that jump off the page to drive consumers to brand experiences they will remember, as well as to your digital properties, such as websites, mobile apps, social media, etc.
Idea worth implementing:
Leverage Informed Delivery® notifications, a new media channel from the U.S. Postal Service. This innovative feature gives you the opportunity to deliver a physical impression as well as a digital one—from a single mailpiece. This feature is currently a “value-add” at no cost to marketers. To learn more, visit: informeddelivery.usps.com.
Reason #6: 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.4
Idea worth implementing:
One size doesn’t fit all. While your inventory may determine the size of your catalog, consider testing different formats and specialty sizes to see what your customers respond best to. Using innovative printing techniques such as textures and smells can also make your catalog stand out.
Reason #7: 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.
Idea worth implementing:
Personalize/customize your catalogs using customer data from past purchases to highlight products they’ve shown interest in. This helps you anticipate their needs and drive loyalty. It can also help you send fewer catalogs to those with lower purchase intent and more to those with greater intent.
Reason #8: Catalogs enable attribution and measurable results.
With budget pressures on marketers to prove ROI, attribution is more important than ever. 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.
Idea worth implementing:
Measure the effectiveness of your catalogs using key code capture and match-back programs so that you can track who bought what and when. Many retailers are syncing up their online customer databases with their catalog data, so they can test what happens when they are synced with other channels.
Reason #9: 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.4
Idea worth implementing:
Limit your catalog frequency by sending them quarterly or seasonally. This promotes attention, interest and excitement for their arrival.
Reason #10: 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.”5 This important buyer segment also spends more time sorting mail than other age groups and appears more engaged with mail than the average consumer.6 This is true for other generations as well. In fact, baby boomers and Gen Xers report strong childhood connections to catalogs prompting feelings of curiosity, hope, and excitement.4
In a survey conducted by the USPS®, households reported a strong attachment to mail.6
- 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.
Idea worth implementing:
Make sure your mailing lists are accurate. A high-quality list ensures that mailing addresses are up-to-date and have been qualified within the past year. USPS offers a FREE, one-time Address Quality Analysis (AQA). You can also use a licensed USPS address hygiene vendor to ensure accuracy.
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.
In an age of digital distraction and ever-shorter consumer attention spans, the catalog is reemerging as a powerful way to engage customers to interact with brands on a deeper level—and it’s not in the traditional format you expect. It’s smarter, smaller, and less expensive to produce. It can deliver big impact by supporting digital experiences while still giving your customers the physical, tactile experience they crave in the virtual world. Experiences that can help your brand cut through all the digital clutter and stand out from the crowd.
Traditional catalogs have a reputation for being time consuming and costly to create. That’s why retailers and e-tailers are now turning to shorter, lifestyle catalogs. This new generation of catalog is timely and relevant. And it’s helping marketers in business of all shapes and sizes bridge the gap between offline and online communication, giving their customers the best of both worlds.
New catalogs are:
- Smarter. They are driven by consumer data gathered through multiple marketing channels, helping you target the right customers at the right time.
- More economical. New production and printing capabilities have taken the cost and complexity out of tailoring versions of a catalog to individual customer segments.
“Catalogs may seem old school, but their increased capabilities and the brand-building potential suggest they’ll remain a staple in retailers’ toolboxes – and consumers’ mailboxes.” —Denise Lee Yohn, Harvard Business Review1
New Catalog Formats: Inventive, Inexpensive, and Easy to Produce
When your budget for direct mail is limited, using a bi-fold or tri-fold postcard mailer as a type of catalog is a great way to start experimenting with direct mail. That way, you can see if it’s an effective marketing effort worth growing and investing more in. By including personalized URLs (PURLS) or QR codes in your mailpieces, you can more easily track results. Micro-catalogs are also a perfect vehicle for featuring a specific selection of your products that you want to promote.
A compelling mix of magazine and catalog, magalogs combine product information with editorial content. This innovative concept is taking the traditional catalog to a new level while helping to reduce production costs. Magalogs have become popular because they allow retailers to express their brand personality through storytelling about their product alongside compelling images—without sacrificing informational content. All of these factors are making the magalog an attractive option for marketers.
The mini-catalog delivers big impact in a smaller package. Many marketers are finding that supplementing full-sized catalogs with this new category of “mini-catalogs” can help them do business more economically while improving key metrics such as response rate. Mini-catalogs mail at approximately the same cost of a standard automated letter and can provide up to ten pages to promote products which can help cut mailing and production costs. At the same time, they can be as effective as larger catalogs in driving customers to company websites.
“Traditional” catalogs with a digital twist
For businesses with a larger budget or extensive product line, the classic catalog style is still a viable option. However, these aren’t your grandmother’s catalogs. Today’s longer-form catalog has evolved from mainly being a direct sales tool, to being a mobile, website, and in-store traffic driver. They have become digital enablers—supporting innovative technologies such as augmented reality (AR) which bridges the gap between our physical and digital worlds. For example, a popular catalog created by a major furniture company uses AR to bring their pages to life; customers simply hover over the page with their smartphones to place a 3D image of the product in their space.
Catalogs add value to the omni-channel experience
Marketers who take advantage of the full range of marketing channels available are better positioned to enhance brand awareness and reach their target audiences. Leveraging more than one marketing channel helps deliver a diversified, connected, customer-centric strategy that increases the chances for successful customer acquisition. With their ability to bridge physical and digital channels, catalogs can play an important role as part of an omni-channel campaign.
Today’s smarter catalogs can deliver big impact because they:
- Cut through the digital noise yet enable digital experiences.
- Enable personalized messaging and targeted outreach.
- Support storytelling, the new gold marketing standard.
- Offer a platform for bold visual images.
- Can cost less to produce and are easier to create.