How to Promote Your Store and Increase Sales With Physical Catalogs
Posted May 31, 2016 by Kwaku Zigah, Now In Store

Why You Should Have Physical Catalogs For Your Online Store

In 1845, Tiffany & Company debuted its iconic Blue Book, which may be the first retail catalog that American consumers ever got in the mail. Believe it or not, this kind of publication is still a powerful marketing tool. In fact, in 2014, the average person who received print catalogs bought $850 worth of merchandise from them.

Bringing Back the Catalog

In 2008, a disastrous recession gripped the world, and many retailers looked for ways to reduce their expenses. Thus, many businesses chose to get rid of their print catalogs. As social media platforms were steadily on the rise, it seemed that those catalogs were out of style anyway.

Recently, though, vendors of various sizes, wholesale and retail, have started publishing physical catalogs in large numbers again. As Harvard Business Review mentions, in 2013, 11.9 billion of them were sent. And in early 2015, J. C. Penney announced that it would bring back its famous print catalog.

The Multi-Channel Approach

At this point, print catalogs seem to have real staying power. That’s because multi-channel marketing has proven to be more effective than relying only on internet advertising.

Customers who look at different types of marketing materials ― Facebook pages, mailings, in-store fliers and so on ― tend to be more loyal. Nordstrom has learned that its typical multi-channel customer spends four times more in its stores than the average consumer who doesn’t check out various promotional items. Therefore, stores ought to send out as many catalogs as they can to have as many multi-channel customers as they can.

Lands’ End learned that lesson the hard way. It began mailing fewer catalogs in 2000, a move that subsequently cost it $100 million in sales. This retailer later discovered through a website survey that three in four of its customers bought something after flipping through its print catalog.

Supplementing email

There’s another important issue here: Vendors can no longer count on email campaigns only to significantly increase sales. That’s because many people block or delete emails that appear to contain advertising content.

One way to measure the success of an email campaign is to look at its click-through rate. When someone opens your email, clicks on its link and goes to your website, it’s called a click-through. Your click-through rate, then, is the percentage of your opened emails that get click-throughs. Emails that are deleted before being opened do not affect this number.

According to the Luminate Online Benchmark Report ― Luminate is a research firm that studies nonprofit internet marketing ― the average email drive received a click-through rate of less than 2 percent in 2015. And open rates rarely exceeded 23 percent.

Less Can Be More

You don’t have to send all of your customers your entire print catalog. Instead, you could create a variety of smaller publications, each of which would target a particular audience.

For example, if you look at your customer data and find that certain people have only purchased sporting goods from you, you might send those individuals just the sporting goods section of your catalog. That way, you’d save money on printing and postage.

When it comes to this strategy, you might think of the Neiman Marcus Group as a role model. That company sends approximately 100 versions of its catalog to 37 million people annually. (You probably won’t need that many variations!)

Likewise, you might only need to send a small fashion lookbook or a few catalog pages to the people who visit your website often. Since those consumers already keep up with your deals and offerings, those mailings will simply remind them to come in and do some shopping when they can. You’re likely to get a great return on investment from those brief publications.

Make It an Experience

Print catalogs provide benefits that you can’t really measure, and nowadays, many of them go way beyond line-sheets.

For one thing, they stand out in people’s memories, more so than digital text and images. Many people spend hours each day on computers and mobile devices, and the words and pictures they see on those gadgets often blur together in their minds.

However, the look, the feel and even the aroma of catalogs can be hard to forget. They sometimes make readers want to go shopping right away. And you can make your catalogs even more appealing by stuffing them with useful extras: recipes, decorating tips, how-to articles, travel stories and so on. After a while, people will look forward to seeing them in their mailboxes.

To further enhance your catalog, use poetic language and sharp, colorful photos. Also, connect your products to emotional experiences. For instance, show smiling parents and excited young children carrying your suitcases in an airport. Or depict a young couple holding your silverware as they dine by a fireplace.

In the end, sitting for a while with a catalog, free from the hectic pace of digital communications, can be calming and truly enjoyable. Print catalogs cause people to subconsciously associate certain brands with peace and beauty. For that reason alone, they’ll probably never be obsolete.

Interested in designing your own catalog? Try out the Now In Store Ecwid App or send your questions to

About the author
Kwaku is the co-founder & CEO of Now In Store , a SaaS based solution that allows businesses to instantly create marketing materials.
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