IKEA Catalog Closure is Going to Break a Lot of Hearts … and that Matters

Last week we learned the iconic IKEA catalog will be no more. I’m still baffled by their decision.

Thanks to our current state of digital fatigue and lockdown weariness, many brands right now are reporting less competition and higher response rates for their direct mail, thanks to the extended life and engagement of direct mail in the home. Even before the pandemic, catalogs were having a renaissance, playing a refreshed role in the customer journey.

Retail industry watcher Pamela N. Danzinger believes the company is actually putting a roadblock on the path of that journey to purchase. Writing in Forbes, Danzinger explains.

“On the face of it, Ikea’s decision makes sense,” she writes. It takes a lot of resources to produce the catalog, translate it into 32 languages, and mail 200 million copies. The money they’ll save could certainly buy them a lot of digital content.

“Ending the catalog will save the company a ton of money and allow the company to funnel all resources into digital where it sees its future lies,” she continues.

It is, she believes, a practical and rational decision. “But that’s the rub,” she continues. “Consumers make purchase decisions based primarily on emotions; reason takes a back seat.”

The company fully acknowledges that the catalog is “beloved” by their customers … and breaking that emotional connection could seriously disrupt the customer journey.

She’s absolutely right. 

The power of print … and print catalogs in particular … lies in their ability to act as a lifestyle influencer, providing inspiration and that emotional connection that is heightened by the physical properties of print. Print has been proven to be incredibly effective, especially when marketing to millennial customers. Replicating a catalog experience into digital can’t help but lose much of its power in the translation.

Danzinger gives a great summary of some of the neurological research that shows exactly how and why print works so well in marketing. Beyond that, it doesn’t take a neurologist to know that breaking a vital and well-loved connection to a brand is not likely to end well. 

It’s been fun knowing you, IKEA. Maybe I’ll browse your website sometime … but I kinda doubt it.