It’s been 350 years since the first mail order catalogue was published in Britain. Despite being one of the oldest forms of marketing, they remain a powerful tool for putting your brand in the hands of your customers.

To prove this, we surveyed 2,000 UK adults who have received a catalogue within the last six months.* Read on to discover what the tried and tested marketing technique could offer your business.

Offline combines with online to increase sales

If you sell through your own website or via online marketplaces, you may never have considered marketing beyond digital channels. But today, more than ever, catalogues can help drive customers online.

Of the 2,000 people we talked to about catalogues, 73% performed an action after receiving a catalogue; 49% visited the sender’s website; 40% went on to make a purchase.

The advent of short-run printing has reduced the cost and complexity involved in tailoring different versions of a catalogue to different customer segments. As a result, digital sellers of all sizes can now combine catalogues with an e-commerce site to drive sales.

“When you receive an order on your website... you will see about 70% of all the orders on our website can be traced back to a mailing.”

- Nigel Swabey, Chairman, Scotts & Co

A distinct form of marketing

Businesses can use catalogues as advanced pieces of content marketing, filled with product demonstrations, high quality images, endorsements and reviews. You can sit down with a catalogue in the evenings, cup of tea in hand, browsing through it with family or friends.

In our survey, we discovered that 65% people enjoy sitting down with a catalogue and looking through them in their own time. Likewise, over four in ten said they would miss catalogues if they no longer received them.

Although retailers produce catalogues to sell goods, in comparison with other forms of advertising, they are unobtrusive. Customers are free to browse them at their own leisure, serving as a source of inspiration for many.

“Years ago it was a selling tool, and now it’s become an inspirational source. We know our customers love a tactile experience.”

Felix Carbullido, Executive VP & CMO, Williams Sonoma

Recipients often look forward to reading catalogues and find shopping with them an enjoyable experience. Thus, consumers don’t perceive this type of publication as advertising in the traditional sense, and typically dedicate more time and attention to them as a result. 

Building a strong connection 

Shopping online or in-store can create a choice overload, with 46% of participants agreeing that they sometimes find shopping overwhelming as there is often too much choice.

In contrast, catalogues are quicker to look through, and often present products alongside diagrams and illustrations, providing visual cues that offer customers a better idea of how something feels or looks.

In our survey, 63% said it can be easier to browse lots of products using a printed catalogue than online or in-store. And, 74% agreed that catalogues give them ideas of things to do or buy.

Research by Royal Mail with Millward Brown also shows that materials you can pick up and touch leave a deeper footprint in the brain. The weight, paper texture and physical format of a catalogue appeals to the senses and delivers a level of engagement that an app or website would struggle to match.

Catalogues are good at making memories because they produce emotions that translate into positive brand associations. In today’s digitally saturated world, this quality proves effective at grabbing the attention of customers and building an emotional connection.

“I think it’s quicker to look for products in catalogues than online. Unless you actually know exactly what you’re looking for, online just throws anything and everything at you so you just end up spending a lot of time narrowing it down to what you want… but sometimes you don’t know what you want – that’s why you’re looking online! Whereas the catalogue already has it narrowed down for you. Catalogues don’t contain everything of course but they contain enough for you to work with and to give you a good idea.” (Younger Family, London).

Creating top-of-mind awareness

During the buying decision process, people can often choose between several retailers offering a similar product or service. Creating top-of-mind awareness is one of the key factors in retaining existing customers, reactivating lapsed customers and converting enquirers.

“I was always a little bit sceptical of catalogues but the main draw is the physical side of them, it is the most direct form of acquisition. You are physically holding something in your hands.”Head of Customer Marketing, Online Clothing Company

People keep catalogues in the home; you can hold them, annotate them, put them down, pick them up later and share them with friends. Of the 2,000 people interviewed, 86% said they keep catalogues for a period of time, and 36% buy more frequently if they receive a catalogue.

Sending a catalogue is like putting a shop window in your customers’ homes. As markets get more competitive, quality catalogues – filled with engaging content – offer all types of retailer a great platform to gain a competitive edge.

Growing your business with catalogues

Whether you have decided on a catalogue or are simply exploring your options, we can help. Our team and carefully selected partners can answer all the critical questions. From planning and timings, to design and layout, we are here to help grow your business with the power of catalogues.

To learn about putting your brand in the hands of your customers, download our guide for using catalogues to grow your business, give us a call today on 0800 633 5350, or contact one of Mail Made Easy partners directly.

*Sources: Royal Mail MarketReach, The Power of Print Catalogues, Illuminas 2017

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