Is The Christmas Catalogue Dead? Or Can It Be Given The Kiss Of Life?
Right about now, retailers around the world are planning their Xmas Catalogues. And some are planning not to have one at all. So what are the pros and cons of catalogues? Are you for them or against them? What's the risk of going all online?

As a creator of both hard copy and online catalogues, we have a foot in each camp as far as design* is concerned. But ask us about retailer strategy and in most instances we'll be advocating omnichannel/multichannel options - because that's what is working best. For our own clients, and indeed, as you'll read, for international clients of some note. 

Hey, big spenders...etc

Global Marketing Consultancy, Kurt Salmon recently published some findings that, while confirming our own experience, also blew us away with some astounding numbers. Their research showed that compared with customers who only

Williams-Sonoma attributes 55% of sales made on their various websites to be catalog-driven.
use the Web to shop, those who use catalogues spend more money and return more often. 

That's worth repeating - catalogue shoppers who shop on the web spend more and come back more often. 

Would you like some customers like that?

But wait!

The customers who utilize both channels (catalogue and online) are the most valuable of all.

For example, during one calendar-year period, it was observed Internet-only customers of one retailer placed orders of $80 on average, whereas catalogue/call centre customers' average orders totaled approximately $90. Customers who utilised both channels saw their average orders climb even further, to more than $92.

Apparel catalog/retailer Lands' End (USA) presented a pop-up survey to customers placing orders on its site asking if they had first looked at the catalogue, and 75% of them said, "Yes."

And what about this little factoid?  A US-based retail marketing consulting firm says their experience of response rates and order sizes can run the gamut, but typically each catalogue mailed costs them less than $1 all up to produce and results in about $4 in sales!! 

Are you still considering dropping your Xmas catalogue?

Not just any catalogues

The printed catalogue may not be dead but the old fashioned, deep etched product and price catalogue is certainly terminally ill. Content marketing is the name of the game now and catalogues, both printed and online, are often where your customers are getting their first sight of your brand "story". 

Today's catalogues have fewer pages and merchandise descriptions, and more and bigger photos and lifestyle images. Good photography is content.

Williams-Sonoma attributes 55% of sales made on their various websites to be catalogue driven. Over the past 4 years they have gradually decreased the number of products featured while at the same time increasing product descriptions and supplemental content - the result - a 12% increase in sales over 4 years. 

Howards Storage World (a client of ours) has followed a similar strategy and seen an 8% increase in sales in just 12 months.

Menswear brand Bonobo's Marketing Director Craig Ebert reports, "A catalogue gives us a bit more breathing room to grab folks' attention," he says. "We're able to tell a bit of a fuller brand story." 20% of their website's first-time customers are now placing orders after having received a catalogue. "They spend 1.5 times as much as new shoppers who didn't receive a catalogue first". 

Our own local industry research is telling us that 64% of people are reading printed catalogues and 54% of them confirm they had made a purchase from a catalogue in the last week!

Best of both worlds

Multichannel and content are the keys to success. We've had considerable experience migrating clients from traditional offline catalogues to more content rich online. We've even created an online feature-rich publishing format called CASzine which sits somewhere between a basic flip book and a significantly more expensive bespoke app. 

The advantage of publishing your catalogue online can be its flexibility. Changes, out of stock situations or product line deletions can be addressed literally over night.


The consumers demand and preference for high quality content means lead times now need to be reconsidered. Gone are the days of  just taking a few product shots and letting the printer "bung it together" at the last minute. About now would be a good time to get this all important project under way. 

Merry Xmas

If you think putting out a catalogue with a picture of a few products hanging from a Xmas tree is going to cut it, good luck with that. We think you'll be seeing a lot more content rich catalogues around this year - both online and offline. It may take a bit more planning, a bit more effort but if the examples we've mentioned are anything to go on, it's going to be worth it.

(*Cumming Agency + Studios has been Australian Catalogue Association's Catalogue Agency of the Year for 9 out of the last 11 years plus runner up on 2 occasions. It currently has  finalists in a number of categories at the upcoming 2014 awards.)


Is the Catalog Dead?

November 5 2013

"Why Online Retailers Like Bonobos, Boden, Athleta Mail So Many Catalogs"

 April 16 2014

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