Rethinking Catalogs — and Your Customers — in a Post-COVID World

With mail volume down overall, marketers are reporting less competition and higher response rates with their direct mail and catalog campaigns. As more people stay (and shop) at home, each direct mail piece is being seen by more people in the household, and consumer catalog businesses are welcoming a significant increase in response, with many struggling to meet demand, writes Stephen Lett in Total Retail.

Lett believes this favored status for catalogs and direct mail is likely to continue long after our current pandemic lifestyle is lifted.

“Consumers are likely not to rush back to bars, restaurants, retail stores, etc., even when there’s a medically accepted vaccine. Many will remain cautious, adopting a wait-and-see attitude,” he writes. “Others will be set in new ways of functioning. They have adapted to a new and safer or more cautious way of living their everyday lives. The transition back to pre-COVID ways of doing things won’t be like flipping a light switch.”

Businesses seem keenly aware that taking care of their customers is essential above all else, and Lett offers some key ways to keep and grow the trusted engagement you’ve garnered over these past months. (That first-party customer data is truly a gold mine … dig deep into it!)

“Stay in touch with your customers,” Lett writes. “Understand what they want and measure up to their expectations. Make their shopping experience everything they expect and more. Read your own customer reviews to learn what they’re saying about your business, and adjust to accommodate issues (i.e., turn issues into opportunities).”

At the same time, he recommends not overwhelming your one-time-only customers. Think of the working parent who dove into making sourdough during the lockdown. They may or may not consider themselves long-term bakers, so be careful not to over-mail them.

Lett also suggests that implementing a customer loyalty program might be a good call right now.

“Customer loyalty programs recognize people who are buying by rewarding the customer. These programs cause the customer to feel good about purchasing from your brand and strengthen their bond with it,” he writes.

Finally, Lett has some advice for brands that aren’t producing and mailing catalogs right now. In a nutshell, it’s time to do it.

“Or,” he continues, “if you are mailing already, the time might be right to develop a spin-off catalog. Conditions are good because those working from home have more time, more discretionary income, and are learning to rely more heavily on the convenience of digital and catalog shopping.”

Direct mail makes us feel better about the brands we know and trust. And catalogs that fit your customer’s lifestyle can be inspiring and powerful. So rethink your media spend this holiday season and see if a catalog or direct mail piece could be right for you.