Why One Big Etailer is Hot on Printed Catalogs

We are now in “the age of the customer,” and that has everything to do with a resurgence of the importance of direct mail. And for one big online brand, their printed catalog is playing a vital role in their marketing plans.

For online home goods merchandiser Wayfair, Inc., it all comes down to that customer-centric approach, backed by good data and strategic business intelligence.

“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.

Moran’s comments were included in a soon-to-be-released report on the state of the North American printing industry – created by Idealiance in partnership with Canon – that provides a telling look at what’s really going on in our multi-billion dollar industry.

The Intersection of Data, Print and Lifestyle

Wayfair’s print catalog is a great example of the modern style of 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 are using our proprietary data and insights to make the shopping experience more tangible [print/mail hold it in my hand] while not limiting our customers’ access to selection and great prices,” explained Wayfair co-founder and CE Niraj Shah.

The brand is taking advantage of a number of factors that are making direct mail so compelling right now:

  • According to “The Case for Direct Mail” from the USPS, 70% of consumers report reading their direct mail catalogs and spending an average of 15-20 minutes with each one.
  • Add to this the “digital fatigue” of the typical consumer who spends an average of eight seconds with a retail email, and sees an average of 1,900 digital ads each month.
  • Ad blocking, ad fraud and the continuing lack of interest in digital ads means more of that marketing is going to waste.
  • On the other hand, reading rates for direct mail is holding steady, with better than 75% of direct mail being read or scanned, the UPSP notes.

For lifestyle brands like Wayfair, which is being really smart about leveraging big data into its direct mail approach, it comes down to creating an atmosphere in which their audience can lean back and dive into the experience. And that’s a huge value to a brand looking to engage with customers in a deep, meaningful and profitable way.