The Pandemic Power Play — Digital and Print Catalogs

“An online catalog is a powerful package, so why is print making a comeback?” 

Jim Preen writing in Brand United asks and answers this question with some key facts about consumer behavior during the UK lockdowns.

“With another national lockdown upon us, people are being forced to spend a huge proportion of their time at home and home is where print catalogs score,” Preen writes. “Recent research by Royal Mail revealed that 88% of people surveyed said they paid as much or more attention to mail during lockdown. This means leaflets and catalogs are far less likely to be dumped straight in the trash.”

We saw this early on in the US lockdowns too; direct mail is more powerful now because more people are sequestered at home, so engagement opportunities are going up.

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.

It’s also a great way for brands to stay connected to their customers who are shopping from home instead of going into stores right now. Yet Preen believes there’s even more to the story.

“People now inevitably have more time on their hands and are less distracted by a modern, hectic life,” he continues. “The pace of living has slowed and because of this, people can devote more time to reading a beautifully produced print catalog in the same way they might look at a magazine. For those of us in work, our lives are now dominated by Zoom calls and often unbroken screen time. Many are keen to take a moment, get off of the computer, and enjoy an analog experience for a few minutes.”

This rings so true. We are digitally overwhelmed. Even before the pandemic ramped up our time online, digital minimalism was taking off and notification fatigue had set in … and brands that relied heavily on digital advertising were feeling a little queasy about that. 

“Print catalogs can be a welcome distraction from our crammed email in-boxes and the din of our social media feeds,” Preen continues. “As physical products, they can easily remain in a locked down home long after a marketing email has been deleted. Print has staying power and if done right can increase the pleasure enjoyed by customers while they buy.”

Savvy marketers are making digital and print work together to lift results. As Preen notes, brands like Uk fashion chain Jigsaw and homewares brand Cox & Cox are sending catalogs and tying them in to their digital channels. 

This is one trend I expect to continue … long after the lockdowns are lifted and it’s back to life outside our bubbles. Consumers have spoken, loud and clear, and print has been given a whole new outlook on life.