The catalogue comeback – Two Sides


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Submitted by: Sam Upton December 21, 2020

Right about now you should be in the final throes of Christmas shopping, tied to the laptop or rushing round the shops for that last-minute (or, in some extreme cases, first-minute) purchase. But this year, it’s likely that you will have received some inspiration from a print catalogue, and in many cases been directed by it to a retailer’s website to buy a featured product.

This year has transformed almost all industries, many brought to their knees by the pandemic. But for catalogues it’s been a year of cautious success, a combination of consumers being stuck at home, wanting a more tangible shopping experience than endless online scrolling, and brands seeking new and more effective ways of engaging with them.

Relaxing me-time

Curiously, the steady decline in brands’ use of catalogues over the past decade has now made them more desirable. Receiving a catalogue in the post is now an event, and provides a much different browsing experience than online shopping. The touch of the paper, the feeling of control, the lack of interruptions, all contribute to a relaxing chunk of time for yourself in your own home – and one that won’t gather data on your choices.

“It’s a brilliant way of keeping a brand front of mind during lockdown,” said Beth Butterwick, Consultant Operating Partner of Jigsaw, to The Guardian. “On average, people will spend three or six minutes on a website but a catalogue or direct mail can lie on a coffee table for a month to six weeks. If there’s something you quite liked you can keep going back.”
Mark Davies, the Managing Director of Whistl Doordrop Media, has also seen an upswing in brands using catalogues and direct mail to reach their customers. In his presentation at the Two Sides Power of Print Seminar he spoke about the forecast for door drop volume rising from 16.7m in 2019 to 32m in 2020, and the impressive returns on investment clients such as Land’s End, Deliveroo, AO, Harry’s and Uber Eats have experienced.

“One of the many advantages of postal media is that it can reach all audiences, including millennials,” he said. “Combined with people spending a lot of time at home and the closure of high street stores, this is resulting in high interaction rates. In one partially addressed mail study, Waitrose generated 1,140 new customers directly from the campaign.”

The year ahead

Going into 2021, the prognosis for catalogues and postal media looks good. As long as brands keep getting results from their media investment then they will continue to use it, and this year has seen plenty of retailers explore mailed print catalogues for the first time, and gain success.

This year could also be a shaky one for digital advertising. Alongside widespread and growing amounts of ad fraud and consumer mistrust, government legislation could soon make it more expensive to advertise online – an increase many small and medium-sized companies may not be willing to pay.

But catalogues sent by mail still retain the same accessibility, feeling of control and powers of persuasion they always have done. And now that data methods have improved, brands can create highly targeted campaigns that achieve impressive returns on investment very quickly.

“There are vast amounts of evidence that show that a physical communication received through the post is more likely to be read, retained and referred back to,” said David Gold, Royal Mail’s Public Affairs & Communications Director, to Two Sides’ The Page magazine. “So any marketer that’s trying to compete for people’s business should really be looking at marketing by mail. Something that’s targeted, lands on your doormat and can be looked at in the safety and comfort of your own home is more likely to boost a business’s bottom line.”




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