Catalogs on the Comeback Trail
Have you noticed an uptick in the number of catalogs in your mailbox recently? We have! So, what’s driving the return of this type of attention-grabbing, traditional marketing?
Over the past few years, companies left the mailbox as they replaced traditional direct mail marketing and went “all in” on digital. The pendulum may have swung too far, creating space in the mailbox to grab consumer attention, and savvy marketers are seizing the opportunity. Now we’re seeing more and more retailers pivoting to cut through the digital clutter and strike a more effective balance between digital and traditional marketing. It’s all about the blend!
To shoppers, the mailbox has never been empty, the contents have just evolved. The eye-catching, beautifully designed printed booklets and catalogs were slowly replaced with drab, white envelopes. Our trip-to-the-mailbox excitement was also replaced with dread at seeing credit card applications, insurance sales materials, and satellite TV offers. Innovative brands are taking advantage of our boring mail fatigue by adding catalogs back into their marketing plans. In fact, retail direct mail volume (including catalogs) has seen a 36% YOY increase as of May 2023 according to the Direct Marketing Snapshot Report by Mintel’s Comperemedia.
We’re seeing the resurgence of catalog marketing from a variety of retail brands. This includes those strong lifestyle and highly visual brands like Wayfair, Bass Pro Shops, and Williams-Sonoma as well as with retailers like Dollar General, Costco, and ULTA Beauty who offer everyday consumables. They all see catalogs as a more effective way to break through the marketing noise surrounding consumers.
Why? Catalogs allow consumers to view and review marketing messages and products at their own pace. These catalogs can have more “staying power” as they can be carried around, flipped through multiple times, perhaps while streaming TV or sitting on the patio. And shoppers love to see the full expression of the product that beautifully styled and captured images provide.
Of course, digital channels are effective at delivering highly targeted, personalized marketing but shoppers only have a moment to engage with the message. And while digital is cheaper per campaign, catalogs offer a much richer opportunity to showcase the brand through imagery and content. Sustainability remains a challenge but can be mitigated through effective marketing and utilization of recycled materials.
With all marketing, timing is everything. As brands continue to see positive results from adding catalogs to their marketing mix, watch for testing on when they’re sent. While retailers will continue to take advantage of the traditional holiday season (thank you Target, Harry & David, and Duluth Trading Company!), we’re seeing brands expand into other seasonal shopping events. Wayfair and Arhaus are showing up in the mailbox on long holiday weekends, graduation season, and even summer solstice!
Is your brand missing an opportunity? Take another look at your mailbox to consider if catalogs can add a little oomph to your marketing strategy.
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