The Return of Catalog Sales

Why It’s Time To Add Catalogs Back Into Your Customer Orders

 

catalog sales trends

Long live mail order catalogs! Even though online shopping is taking the world by storm, a growing number of retailers have discovered that they can further boost online sales through smart catalog marketing.

Catalog production went into a deep decline after the 2008 recession struck, as companies looked for ways to cut costs. Once cut, they were never resurrected by many.

Some companies may have been able to adapt, but for companies such as Lands’ End, the results were disastrous. When Lands’ End opted to completely do away with its print catalog as a cost-cutting strategy one year, the company lost $100 million in sales.

As the economy has recovered, however, catalogs have found a way back into the mix. Why? Because shoppers like them. Consider the following interesting survey results by global management consulting firm Kurt Salmon:

A mind blowing 86% of women in the retail darling age range of 18 to 30 say they have bought an item after seeing it in a catalog. Further, the study reported that of these women, 64% who first saw an item in a catalog ended up completing their purchase in the store, and 32% went to the retailers website to buy it.”¹

To capitalize on these observations, savvy retailers are digging into shopping analytics to create the most effective catalog to drive sales. L.L. Bean’s Chief Marketing Officer, Steve Fuller, noted that instead of sending every customer his brand’s largest book, he looks for frequent website visitors and asks, “Can I only send her 50 pages, or 20, as a reminder of, ‘Oh, I’ve got to go to the website’?”²

Today’s technology is also making it easier to track first-time customers and learn how/why they got there. This helped menswear retailer Bonobos get more granular intelligence on customers spending habits, with or without catalog introductions.

After sending out a test catalog to existing customers and new prospects, the company tracked online orders for that catalog and discovered that “20% of the website’s first-time customers were placing their order after having received a catalog, and they spend 1.5 times as much as new shoppers who didn’t receive a catalog first.”³

What Today’s Catalogs Look Like

Catalog production has been growing again since 2008, but today’s catalogs are taking on a much different format. Some retailers such as Restoration Hardware and Crate and Barrel have found that jumbo page catalogs work well for their sales strategy, while others are creating slimmed down versions, targeted to specific products and buyers.

A growing number of retailers are also using their catalogs as a content marketing tool to build rapport and brand loyalty. Title Nine Sports, for example, showcases real women, not models, wearing their products in their catalogs and includes a short bio featuring their hobbies, vocation and interests.

Williams Sonoma has added recipes to their product pages.  Outdoor retailer REI often sends “mini” catalogs focusing in on certain products with their customer orders. Companies like J. Crew are marrying their catalogs with social media, putting them online in apps like Pinterest.

Many examples of how retail companies are using catalogs to drive sales can be found on the internet. The main thing to remember is that testing and refining your strategy is key. It pays to test different styles and offerings, analyze the results, and keep on tweaking. Fortunately, print technology today is much more nimble and cost-effective than it used to be, making testing less costly.

Right Into the Customer’s Box

If you’re aren’t already doing so, one way to start testing is to add catalogs into your order fulfillment process. Of course, it’s important to code the catalog in some way that makes it easy to track conversion results. The right order packing software and shipping software should make it easy to include specific catalogs with specific orders.

If you’re looking for ideas, we’re always here to help. Contact us today.

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¹ “Back in Style Again? Five Reasons the Catalog is Making a Comeback,” resources.workfront.com, January 24, 2017.

² Denise Lee Yong, “Why the Print Catalog is Back in Style,” Harvard Business Review, February 25, 2015.

³ Elizabeth Holmes, “Why Online Retailers Like Bonobos, Boden, Athleta Mail So Many Catalogs,” Wall Street Journal, April 16, 2014.

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