If you want to see the cutting edge in direct marketing, look to the past. After so much time playing second fiddle to email and instant gratification, direct mail is making progress again—especially when it comes to sales catalogs.
For a large percentage of the population, items in a catalog have a certain cachet. Just by being on the catalog’s pages they’re a little bit more special. That attitude is coming back, and savvy marketers are taking advantage of this trend.
The Stats Do the Talking
According to the Direct Marketing Association, about 90 million Americans buy merchandise from catalogs each year. This means that for many companies sending catalogs is the most effective form of marketing they have. Catalogs offer a unique niche in the buying experience, one retailers had hoped would be replaced by online offerings. But it didn’t happen. There’s something satisfying about holding actual pages in your hands, something that sparks creativity and the imagination. This is the true worth of catalogs—their ability to entice people into imagining new purchases in their lives.
Catalogs Aren’t Boring
For marketing to the millennials and others who are used to shopping online, a catalog’s novelty is what charms them into reading and asking for more. In a sea of online ads, a simple book that comes in the mail can be seen as a welcome way to pass a few minutes during a boring day. Catalogs are many things to many people, but they’re rarely boring, commonplace items any more.
Including great layouts in your catalog photos and direct mail campaigns can serve as fashion and decor inspiration for your readers. Many people look to magazines for home decorating advice and inspiration, and home decor catalogs can serve that same function. The same goes for fashion catalogs and fashion tips. Showing your merchandise’s versatility is a great way to inspire buyers, spurring on their desire to buy your products.
Depending on your personal branding, you may give your customers the impression that all of your merchandise is a great value. This doesn’t mean creating a cheap-looking catalog. Stores such as IKEA produce high-end mailers, yet they’re still known as a great bargain in home furnishings. It’s all in the direction you aim your marketing, not the actual price of your goods.
On the other end of the spectrum, catalogs filled with exclusive items that aren’t offered anywhere else have always existed. Think of the Horchow Collection or Neiman Marcus. These catalogs were filled with high-end merchandise, and were often kept on coffee tables as casual reading material. Simply having one of these catalogs in the home was a mark of distinction. Develop your brand into a unique personality to raise the worth of your catalogs.
From unwanted pieces of “junk mail,” catalogs have morphed into unique and valuable direct marketing tools. Create yours with the right flavor and you can open up entire new markets, or revitalize old ones.