Online Retailers Discover Power of Catalogs
If you could get your customer to spend 15-20 minutes with your marketing material I bet you'd be more than happy. That's what one UK online retailer is finding with the catalogs they are sending their customers.

In the recent Wall Street Journal article "Why Online Retailers Like Bonobos, Boden, Athleta Mail So Many Catalogs" Elizabeth Holmes looks at the resurgence of the US print catalog.

US and UK catalogs have traditionally been direct order whereas Australian catalogues, in the main, have been retail store traffic drivers. Exceptions in the Australian market include, of course, such notables as Innovations and Ezibuy but in terms of sheer quantity of pages and distribution Australian retailers overwhelm their DM colleagues.

What this article identifies is a clear coming together of the roles of both styles to produce an online store traffic driver.

And the results the online fraternity are finding are impressive indeed.

It was Boden who identified customers spending 15-20 minutes with the catalogues as against 8 seconds with an email and a more acceptable 5 minutes with their app.

Which is one of the reasons why US catalog numbers are up last year for the first time since the GFC (that economic shakeout also drove a rationalisation and cleaning of customer lists to weed out dead wood).

Williams-Sonoma Inc. has always been a strong catalog marketer through its parent brand and 6 related bricks and mortar brands including Pottery Barn and West Elm. The move to embrace online fully over the past decade hasn't seen them move away from catalogs. 

Their customers "look through it to get ideas and inspiration. And if we do a good job, they get ideas for things they didn't even know they wanted before they got there. It's still a very, very important part of our marketing mix," says Pat Connolly, Williams Sonoma's Chief Marketing Officer.

Others to experience and leverage the power of catalogues are: Bonobos - first time customers who receive a catalogue first spend up to 1.5 times more than those who didn't receive a catalog.  "A catalog gives us a bit more breathing room to grab folks' attention," Bonobos VP Marketing Craig Elbert says. "We're able to tell a bit of a fuller brand story."

Neiman Marcus - "We see an immediate sales lift," says John Koryl, president of stores and online at Neiman Marcus. Not only that but the catalog has a "halo effect" beyond the catalog to the brand's broader offerings delivering the customer an "inspirational moment" to prompt them to shop.

What we are seeing locally is marketers such as Howards Storage World using their catalog as a means of giving customers offline access to the wealth of content they have online. This also helps to build their dominance in a cluttered marketplace, establishing their position as expert, well away from the product and price iterations of yesterday's catalogs.

And, in a time when many retailers, online and offline, have come to rely upon email as a cheap means to get their message through, it may actually be easier to stand out in the letterbox than in the Inbox. 

After all, how do you get an email opened? I believe research shows you've got about 7 words.
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