Amazon is Printing a Toy Catalog – and I Can’t Wait for Christmas

Amazon – the largest face of online retail today – is making a bold move in print for the upcoming holiday season.

“In a drive to win the business up for grabs after the demise of Toys ‘R’ Us Inc., the online giant is going conventional with plans to publish a holiday toy catalog, according to people with knowledge of the strategy,” writes Matthew Townsend in Bloomberg Technology News. “The printed guide will be mailed to millions of U.S. households and handed out at Whole Foods Market locations, the grocery chain Amazon bought last year, said the people, who asked not to be named because the plan isn’t public.”

According to Townsend, the move is an important part of the digital giant’s push to incorporate traditional retail tactics into its marketing strategy and business model.

“It even looked at acquiring some Toys “R” Us locations earlier this year, according to people familiar at the time,” he writes. “That came after its $13.7 billion purchase of Whole Foods made a big splash as it pushed into brick-and-mortar retailing. Amazon has since been integrating the chain into its larger business, including marketing its voice assistants and discount membership in stores.”

So, Facebook’s publishing a print magazine … Amazon’s mailing a print catalog … we don’t really even have to say it, do we? When high profile digital brands like these two are committed to increasing their brand reach via print, the message is clear. While the number of touch points continues to grow for retailers, and advertisers must be savvy in the ways their consumers prefer to be reached, digital brands clearly understand how important print is to their audience.

Of course, we don’t expect this to be the old “wish book” style product listing catalog of years gone by; catalogs are smarter and better looking than ever with their lifestyle-based editorial approach. Home furnishings e-tailer Wayfair made the leap to print catalogs last fall, noting their desire to better understand their customer and how they want to be approached.

“We think that direct mail is a chance that gives us a valuable, immersive touch point where we can tell our brand stories and enhance the shopping experience for our customers,” noted Erin Moran of Wayfair at the time.

Wayfair’s print catalog is a great example of the modern style of a catalog that aims to inspire a particular lifestyle rather than push a line of goods. It included 775 items, just a small fragment of their overall line; those items were chosen by analyzing the mounds of data Wayfair has acquired on their customers’ behaviors and preferences.

We expect Amazon – the owner of what may be the most massive amalgamation of online shopper data on the plant – to leverage their insights and create something really amazing.

“Amazon has become a toy-shopping destination in its own right,” Townsend notes. “The big reason is that toys, especially during the holidays, draw shoppers. In 2007, the company copied traditional retailers and published an online hot-holiday toy list that featured playthings expected to be in demand. It’s been gaining market share in the category ever since, and now it’s taking another page from legacy chains.”

I’m looking forward to seeing this catalog and how they approach it. For e-tailers, it’s becoming quite obvious that a customer-centric approach must include some type of print to meet the customer where they are.  Airbnb and Hearst are leveraging their user data to create print magazine magic. And cosmetic brand Maybelline has recently done the same. Let’s see what Amazon – with all their data and resources – can do with this. If done right, this could be a sea change in how e-tailers use their data insights to communicate in print.