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The Return of the Catalog

You’re probably reading the title and checking the date, but your eyes do not deceive you. It’s 2022, and the catalog is making a comeback. For decades, catalogs were the only way to shop outside of a store. Sizes ranged from small to jumbo, the latter of which often resembled a coffee table book, and there was one purpose; to allow the consumer to see the product offerings and make a list to mail-in or call-in to place the order. When online shopping was in its initial hay-day, everyone said the catalog was dead. Icons in the retail industry vowed to keep catalogs around, but they were scaled down and sent less frequently than they had previously. Why would anyone want to flip through a paper catalog if they could do the same online? Catalogs dwindled, mail piles got smaller, and the catalog as we knew it was gone.

Then something happened… generations who had been raised with a mix of analog and digital, and then the next who was only raised with technology showed they really liked getting mail. It was a mix of nostalgia and the need to get their eyes off of a screen. Emails hit inboxes in droves with attempts at flashy subject lines, but most are quickly swiped off the screen before they’re even viewed. On the other hand, a catalog hits the mailbox, and would-be consumers find themselves unable to toss it without flipping through it. The catalog has become what email was when it was in its early marketing days. There’s psychology at play here; what’s printed is more easily retained than what is skimmed in an email or digital ad. 

Are the actual proof catalogs have returned? Amazon. The retailer who shunned all things physical started producing a toy catalog years ago, and it was extremely successful for them. Perhaps too successful for their parents, kids grab it and begin feverishly circling everything they want. No prices, just pages filled with what was once in a large and expansive toy shop. Except the toy shop would overwhelm most kids. The catalog is digestible. They can look through pages, leave and easily return. They can hand it to their parents with all of their wants circled. That’s not as easily doable online, especially for younger children. Other brands, including mega-retailer Target, followed suit. 

All of this said, the catalog has evolved. Personalization can be injected into every catalog if the company wants it. We love seeing subtle custom catalogs using consumer behavior, location, previous purchase history, or demographics. You don’t need to put their names everywhere, but if you know they have children between 5-7 years old in the home, their catalog doesn’t need to waste pages with toys for small children or teens. For luxury brands, utilizing past purchase history compared to similar buyers can allow catalogs to highlight only what they don’t have and are more likely to want. 

We could talk about the return of catalogs and the move from digital to print direct marketing for days, but what it really comes down to is this: if you have any type of product to offer, don’t discount the catalog. It’s back, and we firmly believe it’s here to stay by borrowing from other successful marketing techniques. Make sure to contact our experts at Kirkwood Direct by giving us a call today or filling out our online contact form for more information!

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