Rise of the Catalog

With the global pandemic taking a toll physically and mentally, people looked towards this holiday season as a glimmer of hope and cheer. Retailers kicked off the holiday season earlier than ever starting their sales and marketing in October in hopes of avoiding big in-store crowds and shipping bottlenecks. While most marketing teams turned to email and social media, some tapped into a different consumer experience – printed catalogs.

It’s no surprise that catalogs have made a return with digital overload from emails and social media feeds. According to Jonathan Z. Zhang at Harvard Business Review, “Consumers are surprisingly enthusiastic about receiving them – response rates from catalogs have increased by 170% from 2004 to 2018.” And it’s not just Baby Boomers and Gen X who enjoy receiving catalogs in the mail, Millennials do too. According to InfoTrends, 75% of millennials cite that catalogs are a beneficial tool for obtaining information on products of interest, and over 92% of millennials find that they use catalogs to review products.

In the current climate where physical touch and window shopping is limited, catalogs can bridge the gap with a similar experience through high impact graphics or textured paper. Amazon sent a catalog complete with interactive games and stickers mixed between colorful imagery of products you could purchase online through QR codes. Target printed 87 colorful pages filled with toys, QR codes, and even coupons to use online or in-store. There are even blogs that detail all the catalogs one can receive in the mail during the holidays. It’s safe to say that people of all ages enjoy looking through catalogs to create their wish list.

So are catalogs making a comeback? Not necessarily – this print medium is evolving much like the rest of the industry. We’re even seeing some major retailers, the latest one being IKEA, ending their tenured print catalog due to changes in shopping behavior, environmental concerns, and speed to execute. Between print on demand technology and the expanding gamut of recycled paper options, I think there is an opportunity for companies to produce sustainable, highly targeted catalog campaigns that offer a personalized product range for each of their consumers. 

Written by: Candice Sampson

Sources: Harvard Business Review, Associated Press News, InfoTrends, Data and Marketing Association, CNBC