It’s a multi-channel world out there, and we live it every day. We jump from direct mail to smartphone to brick and mortar purchase then back again to our tablets to order a missing size online. We do this almost without a second thought … until any one piece of the marketing puzzle is missing.
For many retailers, catalogs have been that missing piece for too long, and they are embracing print to engage directly and deeply with their customers.
“As we enter a new decade, it’s easy to assume that, in the height of this digital age, traditional approaches to retail have been rendered irrelevant,” writes John Squire in WWD. “But with the industry facing increasing challenges, including the mounting threat of a post-holiday ‘retail vortex,’ there are lessons to be learned from the conventional models of yesteryear — particularly catalogue retail.”
Squire tells us we are experiencing a surge in direct-to-consumer strategies that are aimed specifically at cutting through the clutter of the online marketing onslaught.
“Even Amazon is on board with the release of its second-holiday toy catalogue that linked directly to its online store through QR codes,” he continues. “Meanwhile, brands founded in catalogue retail are revamping their direct mail offerings for today’s consumers.”
Squire cautions retailers against discounting catalogs as “relics of the past” (I heartily concur) and offers some ideas to help maximize your ROI.
Build an emotional connection
“Direct mail is an effective method of connecting emotionally with audiences. The tactile experience of turning catalogue pages engages consumers in a way that is challenging to re-create digitally. The focus on imagery is captivating, particularly during peak trading periods like the holidays when lifestyle photos can inspire purchases,” he notes.
Embrace data to raise return
“By taking a data-driven, customer value-focused approach and creating strategies that are aimed at the cohorts most likely to engage with a specific campaign — or those that have indicated propensity to buy, rather than relying on more traditional targeting techniques, such as demographics — retailers can reduce costs, thus optimizing their marketing efforts,” he suggests.
Maximize product visibility
Consumers behave differently when scrolling search results and perusing a catalog … and a smart catalog strategy takes advantage of this.
“Shoppers won’t necessarily scroll past the first page of search results when looking for products online, but when browsing a catalogue, they will flick through multiple pages, if not the entire book. This gives retailers the opportunity to showcase new or different product offerings to consumers who would otherwise have missed them,” he explains.
Test, optimize and test again
We’re a quirky lot, us consumers, and our behavior today doesn’t necessarily predict how we’ll respond next week. To that end, avoid making “gut” assumptions or “they always” predictions. Data can help understand what’s really going on, and can be used strategically to help other channels as well.
“Perhaps surprisingly, e-commerce can act as a test run for in-store sales, giving retailers the information they need to understand how best to merchandise and stock their brick-and-mortar stores,” he notes
It’s the new age of the catalog, and they are become less an oddity and more a staple of a solid multi-channel marketing strategy. We can thank the digital revolution for this beautiful disruption in catalogs and the fantastic power they have to engage in real-time.