A quick guide to a perennially popular and effective marketing tool: the printed product catalog
Most highly successful online retail brands still deliver printed product catalogs. Household name companies like Wayfair, Home Depot, and even Amazon rely on printed catalogs as an essential element of their marketing strategies. And there are good reasons why even in the so-called ‘digital age’ so many companies — here’s a list of no fewer than 60 well-known brands — print paper catalogs.
The digital revolution has made it easier than ever for any savvy entrepreneur to set up in retail even on a shoestring budget. With no need for physical storefronts and the chance to minimize staffing and office requirements, we’ve seen e-commerce retailers popping up all over the Internet. In fact, it’s fair to say that the retail marketplace has never been more crowded or more competitive than it is today.
So, to stand out from the crowd, even otherwise purely online companies are opting to design and print physical, paper catalogs. And consumers love them. Increasingly, market research highlights that there’s a general fatigue among many key consumer demographics — particularly millennials, who constitute one of the largest and most affluent market segments — when it comes to online shopping and digital marketing.
These consumers prefer getting their groceries at local farmers’ markets, buying books and music from independent retailers, and reading print magazines as well as blogs. It’s no surprise, then, that to capture the custom of these consumers, a printed product catalog — especially one which has a magazine-like look and feel — is the ideal marketing tool.
Whatever the size and scope of your business, if you’re not adding a printed product catalog to your promotional retail strategy, you could be missing out on a significant share of the market. Let’s take a look at five core ways that a printed catalog can boost your brand and drive more sales.
People — especially millennials — love catalogs
According to a recent study for Xerox, seven out of 10 consumers refer to printed catalogs when deciding on their purchases, even when buying online. And of those who received a printed product catalog, no less than 69% of them spent at least half an hour browsing through it. Further, we know that many people — and those in their late 20s through early 40s in particular — positively enjoy receiving and reading direct mail advertising, including catalogs. So, the first way that printed product catalog marketing helps boost your business and drive sales is by presenting your brand and products to a significant market segment in a format that they love to read.
- Catalogs encourage engagement, interaction, and social sharing
Catalogs can be so much more than simple product lists. You can add thoughtful, persuasive articles and high-quality, full-page photography to make them more magazine-like. Run features on key personnel, ethical materials sourcing, or the creative inspiration behind a product or product range. Interviews with celebrity customers, testimonies, and other journalistic content can add value to your brand, increasing the amount of time that a consumer spends engaging with your catalog.
You can also use the pages of your catalog to run questionnaires and ask for feedback. Present them in the format of fun quizzes of the kind often enjoyed by the readers of the popular glossy magazines. Offer discounts and gift cards for introducing friends and colleagues to the catalog and encourage your readers to connect with your brand on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, SnapChat, and TikTok.
In this way, your catalog can provide an enjoyable, interactive experience to your target group. It can also drive traffic to your website, blog, and social media. At the same time, all this interaction also allows you to capture a lot of useful consumer data that you can feed into your market analyses to refine and develop future campaigns.
- Catalogs are ideal for cross-media integration
A catalog needn’t be a standalone publication. We’ve already mentioned the idea of encouraging social media interactions via the pages of your printed catalog, but it can go much further. Here are a few interesting methods to build cross-media integration into your catalog marketing:
- Use QR codes to link from the catalog direct to video content — which you can host at no charge on YouTube, for example — showing product demonstrations
- Duplicate a digital version of your print catalog online to encourage and enable a smoother transition from the offline experience to your e-commerce platform
- Offer customers who sign up to your newsletter via the catalog the opportunity to join a private Facebook group or Discord with incentives such as early product releases, reviews, and discounts
- Give catalog customers the opportunity to phone orders through and have your call center staff conduct a brief market research survey once they’ve taken the order
Those are just a handful of ideas to get you started. Once you begin to apply your creativity to the ways in which your printed catalog campaign could integrate with your wider marketing strategies both online and offline, you’ll come up with many more. In most cases, you may not need to alter your other marketing efforts at all — just link back to them from your catalog. Easy!
- Catalogs control consumer choices
A powerful aspect of the psychology behind the success of catalog marketing is that people naturally perceive printed marketing materials as being more trustworthy and having more authority than online advertising. This gives you several exciting opportunities to exercise direct control over consumer purchasing decisions. The more ‘real estate’ you give a product on the page, the greater the chances of the consumer imbuing that product with high value and therefore moving on to buy. By featuring different products in the right ways in your printed catalog, you can push sales. You could use the technique to shake up the sales on a stagnant product line or promote a new product, for example.
- Catalogs benefit from longevity and seasonality
People who love catalogs are also people who keep catalogs. Because browsing through a printed catalog is such a relaxing and pleasant experience, it’s one to which consumers return again and again. Not only that, but if the catalog is well-designed, it’ll have the same appeal as a style or fashion magazine.
Your catalog should represent the aspirations and dreams of the consumer group at which it’s targeted. For this reason, good catalogs don’t get hidden away in bottom drawers. They’re displayed on coffee tables in living rooms all over the country. This means they last a long time, and get seen by many more people than those to whom they are originally delivered.
You can also make them seasonal. Okay, so that means printing four catalogs a year. But it also means the perfect excuse to make fresh contact with your customers, reignite their curiosity and excitement about your brand and products, and keep pushing new sales all year round. What’s not to love?
Next steps to a successful printed product catalog marketing campaign
By now you should be aware of the many profitable opportunities that print catalog marketing can bring to your business. Your mind is probably buzzing with ideas! We have long experience — decades, in fact — of working with businesses of every size and description from all over the world to help them develop, design, and print winning product catalogs to boost their brand and drive sales. We’d love to help your business, too. Get in touch today for a no-obligation quote or just to talk through the possibilities with a member of our expert, enthusiastic team. Let’s talk!